Introduction to The Politics of Deafness, continued
The contentious terrain of "rights talk," itself a ground defined by intractabilities, makes visible the competing claims that animate conflicts over language choice and access for those who are deaf. Claiming a "right to speech" for all deaf children does little to address the problem of how to alter deaf children into hearing adults. As with the social conflict over abortion, there is no neutral territory. The battle over reproductive control is only the most obvious instance of opposing camps each seeking justification for their position through strategic deployment of rights talk. Yet here too, as with questions of reproductive freedom, there are very basic principles at stake. I argue strongly that practices of state control over the body resonate intimately with practices applied to the deaf.

The tension between resistance and complicity is a theme that runs throughout these pages. Each level of participation denotes some complicity, even during the most overt actions of resistance. This work is about making such tensions, as well as peculiar and long unquestioned forms of oppression, both more visible and more accessible. It aims at a wider social discourse on interpretive models and on the identities allowed to those marked "abnormal."

The questions raised here, while still tied to the mundane world of individual and collectively lived lives on the margins of the economic, social, and linguistic world, seek to call attention to deeper exclusions in our ways of knowing language and conveying meaning. Such questioning includes a politics of seeing that has more than one body for semiotics, as well as more than one semiotics of the body. This oppositional history of language choice explores how one linguistic modality has been deeply buried under calcified layers of other histories that not only "silence" but render unseen that which might be most distinctly visible. It offers a postcolonial view of deafness, examining institutions and practices that render speech visible but occlude language.

My goal is to change many of the "normal" questions, as well as questions about "the normal," as I point to new understandings of how earlier questions emerged, why they may no longer be of primary interest or of use, and why many of them help maintain exclusion and marginality. This work is about the political meanings of deafness, about the politics of Deaf identity, and about what it costs to be "unusual." Previous page

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