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  • Mike Gulliver 3:15 pm on March 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gallaudet, , places, spaces, theory   

    Deaf spaces and places – early explorations of geographical theory 

    You can now find a pdf of Elizabeth Mathews (2007) chapter on the application of geographical theory to Deaf space linked to from the resources page.

    If you’re somewhat flumoxed by the geography-speak that you find on this site, Mathews’ chapter is a good place to start. She gently unpacks the role that geographical theory might play in validating Deaf spaces and bases this in work that is ongoing at Gallaudet.

    For those of us a bit more used to the idea of Deaf Geographies – the great news is just how far we’ve come theoretically since Mathews wrote this.

    Go team !

  • Mike Gulliver 8:35 am on September 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Deaf identity, , gallaudet, identity politics, post-modern, spatial turn, utopia   

    Fracturing the Gallaudet utopia? 

    A recent article by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post highlights changes that are occurring at Gallaudet, with the inclusion of so many more students from largely hearing, or mainstream backgrounds.

    To quote:

    Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington was always a place where students could speak the unspoken language of deaf America and be understood.

    That is no longer so true. For the first time in living memory, significant numbers of freshmen at the nation’s premiere university for the deaf and hard of hearing arrive lacking proficiency in American Sign Language and experience with deaf culture.

    These newcomers are not only deaf, but also hearing people arriving to be trained as interpreters.

    So what impact for Deaf space there?

    I guess initially two things spring to mind.

    The first is that this is bound to have an impact on the DEAF spaces produced to this point on the GU campus. I can’t imagine that those who took-for-granted the knowledges that they perform in producing a ‘DEAF=like us’ space before will continue to be able to do so in the same way with so many non-DEAF=like us people around.

    Will that lead to enclaves, hybrid spaces, hybrid identities, a new definition of DEAF, a series of parallel cultures? All of the above? I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.

    The second is that, like it or not, what’s happening at GU seems to mirror larger debates within the Deaf community and of the spaces that they produce and inhabit; debates which many have suggested represent a move towards a more descriptive way of talking about a much wider range of those who are, or might be, characterised as ‘Deaf’ or who might be involved with the Deaf community in some significant way: ‘DEAF’ (Gulliver 2009), Sign Language Peoples (Batterbury et al 2007?), Deafhood (Ladd 2003), Post-deaf (Davis 2008?), Deafnicity (Eckert 2010).

    The root of all of these ‘new’ (in fact very old – read the 19th century Deaf press to see how little the modern identity-political ‘Deaf’ has in common with longer-term vision of a signing, visual community) debates appears to derive from a fracturing of a polar ‘Deaf/hearing’ identity imposed by the colonisation of Oralism, an opening up of a number of taboo areas (discussions about deaf bodies, for example (Kelly 2003) and a recentring of identity in the individual, and in individual performances of capability and belonging. Essentially, a spatial turn in Deaf Studies, that pursues wider Deaf realities from a starting point in spaces of/from the body – and then moves to the production of social, cultural, linguistic, political, ethnic (the list goes on) spaces of being.

    Given that the individual is not fixed, and that the flux of individuals through groups leaves those groups un-fixed, it’s hard to see how DEAF/Deaf/deaf – or any other space – can remain fixed, except as a snapshot, or a limited utopian vision.

    And yet, that’s what Gallaudet appears to represent in many people’s minds… a utopia, a Deafspace haven in the midst of a hearing world.

    So what happens as the contestatory nature of that Deafspace/hearing-world dichotomy begins to break down within the boundaries of Gallaudet itself. How does the imagination of a culture cope with the reality (like it or not – that’s not the question here) of staunchly post-modern performances of Deaf (or Signing people) identities?

    I don’t know – but we might find out soon enough.


  • Mike Gulliver 4:00 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: architecture, , , gallaudet, hansel bauman, social model of disability, thought experiment, utopics   

    DEAF space or the question of ‘what if’… 

    A problem is looming that is going to only get bigger… Having spent the last 6 or 7 years exploring the way that members of a self-recognising DEAF community produce spaces for being… and called it ‘DEAF space’, another ‘Deaf space’ is emerging which means something different.

    This puts me (or rather, my work) in rather an interesting position; I’m finding that my work is being redefined by a popular expression of something that’s not what I researched at all…

    I have no desire at all to fight over the name…

    Firstly… because I know where Deaf space has come from (the Gallaudet architecture project)… and I know the people involved (notably Hansel Bauman).  I like Hansel and his work… I even shared a platform with him at the recent AAG in Seattle. His work is firmly part of Deaf geographies and he’s a contributor on the DEAF space blogs.

    So… there’s no issue there of telling Hansel that his work is wrong… it’s not… it’s just different.

    Second… I don’t really even know whether ‘DEAF space’ is the best label for what I’ve been researching… see the previous post on boundaries of DEAF space for more on that… (mind you, I don’t know whether ‘Deaf space’ is any good for what Hansel’s been looking at, but it’s as good a name as any other).

    Finally… I’m not really sure that there should be a difference made… after all… all you have to do is look at DEAF space (as I’ve described it… as a space that allows DEAF people to ‘fully be’…) and extend the utopian side of my thinking to a point where DEAF people start to have control over their built environment… and you end up with a Deaf space.

    However, I guess it’s the need to see that linear path of argument, and then to follow it back and forth in a number of directions… and wonder what happens when space veers off it suddenly that makes me uncomfortable… that’s the kind of mental game that academics like to play… but how relevant is it really to the DEAF community?

    That’s where Paddy Ladd’s Deafhood is so good, for all its potential theoretical fragility… it is an easy to grasp concept that really carries weight and moves people to action (or internal evolution), even in a popular form…

    Deaf space as Hansel’s working on it, in a popular form, looks pretty much like what it is… environment designed around a different way of being human… it’s not ‘accommodation’ or ‘access’, it’s the social model of disability flipped around and given to the DEAF community…

    Whereas what I’ve been researching is actually a kind of DEAF utopics… and what I’m moving gradually towards is a utopic theory that not only encompasses DEAF space, but extends that to others who life their lives from within differently able physical bodies…ultimately problematising the ‘DEAF’ of ‘DEAF space’.

    Perhaps I can continue to use DEAF space… but actually start referring to it as only a part of what I research, which is more a kind of multiply sensed, human ‘what if’…

    What transformative power is there though, in something that is necessarily a thought experiment… ?

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