Introduction to The Politics of Deafness, continued
Working with and from a terrain of terms that actively seek to defamiliarize common notions of "normal," chapter 2 opens a genealogical inquiry into the historical emergence of practices now taken for granted, practices we treat as if they were "natural," part of "simply how things are." A genealogy of deafness offers a contrasting perspective to the traditional pieties of Deaf history. It is less about heroic accomplishments and tragic failures than it is about an emergence of a dominant view of what it means to be deaf. The social mechanics of how that meaning is both produced and sustained shift dramatically, yet the functional meaning is left untouched.

Geology, archaeology, and genealogy: each term has been appropriated for its metaphorical value in constructing critical inquiry. One focuses on sedimentation, another on incrementation, the third on mutation. Mutation is neither the most pleasing nor politically correct way of encapsulating the concerns of genealogy, yet it best expresses the conflicts of purity and defilement, of origins and virtue, and the qualifications of a body that might convey spirit-conflicts and qualifications that mutations occasionally evade.

William Connolly observes, "Genealogy is a dirty game which can only be experienced to be depreciated. It asks embarrassing and impertinent questions, those which upset tidy arrangements as well as the social decorum of understood protocol. It can be upsetting, and even annoying." (3) This accurately portrays the intent of my critique of the usually pious history of the Deaf.

This impertinent genealogy of identity formation continues from the perspective of a postcoloniality in chapter 3. The practices of denial by the Hearing, rarely conscious and even more rarely acknowledged, have produced overt repressions of intellectual, economic, and social opportunities for peoples who are deaf. An underlying impetus to this denial, the demand for accommodation only on Hearing terms, arises partly because the difference deafness represents is so foreign and "unnatural."

Colonialism is usually depicted as a cultural hangover incurred while squandering the bounty gained from heroic voyages of discovery and the attendant exploitation of native populations. As with Western domination of other foreign "discoveries," the relation of Hearing to Deaf cultures has primarily been that of a pastoral colonialism so long naturalized as to have faded into the consensual "normal." Thus the dominance and oppression are more complex than a simple exploitation narrative of natives versus colonialists might suggest. This economy structured by recognitions makes visible, in critically new ways, a more complex relationship with practices of exclusion and inclusion.

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