Introduction to The Politics of Deafness, continued
The analysis here also addresses tensions little noted in the current literature on deafness and on the popular move to reconstitute Deafness as a global culture. The projected or "lived" universalism being claimed by Deaf activists is an attempt to constitute imaginal memories. Such universalism draws on the experience of many deaf people who, in their deafness, find a commonality that, in this frame, transcends other distinctions of race, ethnicity, or nationality. Yet, as will be shown, new claims of homogeneity produce endogenous colonialisms, as well.

Tensions in the articulation of these claims result, in part, when the historic discourse on deafness becomes entangled with attempts to reframe the discourse while still using traditional and familiar terms. Other tensions arise within and between modernist and ironic portrayals of power. For example, leaders of the various Deaf communities have numerous misgivings about the rhetorical strategies necessary to use the "disabled" channels of and to power. Some Deaf leaders vigorously refuse the identity label "disabled," seeing themselves strictly as a linguistic minority, while others are willing to accept the label's inherent limitations in exchange for shorter-term payoffs in social welfare privileges.

Some of the particular characteristics by which culture is marked, as well as some of the particular tactics by which those so marked evade authority, belong to domains of ethnicity and regionalism. Thus Deaf cultures may mimic the flora and fauna of the dominant Hearing cultures that surround them, but the search for similarity offers little of value and is not pursued here. This search is itself tightly bound or twinned to its mirror. The practices by which modern societies have chosen to mark and manage deafness, however, illuminate the techniques (and the dissemination of those techniques) by which marginality in general is produced and managed. The displacement of logistical anchors, the ironic stances, and the disruptive perspectives are tactics of a politics of de-naturalization, a politics that demands space within and between the normalizing frames of our daily lives.

The recognition of human limitation, both in ethnographic authority and in resources that might directly address exclusion and alleviate basic human needs, informs chapter 4. This chapter draws on nearly ten years of collaborative work with and among a loosely defined "community" of Deaf Thais in both urban and rural Thailand.

Ethnography is not about finding fact, about empirical data that might reveal truth. Nor is it about self-referencing "bodies" of literature, self-generated and nourished through a politics of citation. It is instead about the juxtaposition of viewpoints. Ethnography is a logistics of perceptions by which practices that support or sustain certain sets of interests are arrayed against other sets of interests and their support mechanisms.

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