Where’s DEAF space for the individual?

A question that’s been rattling around my head since the IBG in London is what is DEAF space for the individual? After all, isn’t it a fundamental part of ‘DEAF’ (particularly as defined by Padden & Humphries as ‘like us’) that it is only really mobilised as part of a collective/community? And isn’t ‘DEAF’ – as a collective term – anathema to individual productions of space?

I don’t have a full answer – performances of space change so often and in such subtle ways that I’m not sure that there is a single, definitive answer.

But I think part of the answer is that there a tension between the ‘ideal’ of individual freedom; spaces described on an individual basis – and on a moment by moment, case by case, basis – and the inevitability of what happens when those spaces are represented (either by the person themselves, or by others) and the tensions and codings that get involved at that point.

Ultimately, there’s nothing extraordinary about the spaces that emerge as a series of people who are physically more visually oriented go about their being-in-the-world – at least, no more extraordinary than any other spaces produced by other individuals who are simply ‘perceiving’ their environment and ‘capabilising’ (!) it accordingly. They are just… spaces.

That is, until individual capabilities (either mechanical, or existential) become contingent upon also establishing those spaces alongside others. That’s when spaces become grouped, identified as ‘same’, polarised, defined, marked, Othered, valued, devalued.

It seems to be at that point where ‘human’ breaks down into different categories… ‘DEAF’ perhaps being one of those, alongside ‘hearing’, ‘normal’, ‘same’, ‘different’, ‘safe’, ‘dangerous’ etc.

Perhaps the key to individual DEAF spaces is the way that those categories then get authored back into an individual’s ‘representations’ of space (to draw on Lefebvre)… and the way that shapes the performance of spaces which would otherwise we produced ‘value free’ by the simple interaction of bodies and environment.

Something to ponder anyway ;)