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10:5 Friday, May 23, 2008

The Deaf Community Challenged

Scholars and Performers Share Viewpoints
on Assistive Technologies and Civil Rights

In recent years, the rapid pace of cultural and technological change has necessitated a continual rethinking of what it means to be deaf, hard of hearing, or culturally Deaf. Signs and Voices: Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts addresses these and other cultural issues that are changing the landscape of d/Deafness. Kristin A. Lindgren, Doreen DeLuca, and Donna Jo Napoli, the editors of this cross-disciplinary volume, first came together to organize the Signs and Voices conference, a four-day event that took place at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr colleges. Many of the chapters in this volume grew out of essays presented at that conference.

Three distinct sections focus on a particular set of theoretical and practical concerns. The essays in Part One: Culture and Identity explore what it means to be d/Deaf in the twenty-first century. Examining the past and envisioning the future, these chapters reflect on the complex individual and cultural processes through which d/Deaf identities and communities are constructed. Part Two: Language and Literacy highlights new research on sign languages and examines the implications of this research for educating deaf children. The essays in Part Three: American Sign Language in the Arts discuss the ways in which American Sign Language (ASL) draws on and reinterprets literary traditions in English and also how ASL expands these traditions, creating new possibilities for literature and performance. In particular, the visual and spatial dimensions of ASL provide unique poetic and dramatic resources, challenging us to rethink traditional notions of language, literature, and literary theory. The book is accompanied by a DVD that includes clips of ASL and of ASL poetry and theater discussed by the contributors.

Read more about this cross-disciplinary study in chapter four, “I thought There Would Be More Helen Keller”: History through Deaf Eyes and Narratives of Representation, and order Signs and Voices online or by mail to receive a special savings of 20% off the regular price. When ordering online, type “MAY0820%” in the “Comments or Special Instructions” box below your credit card information.


In its May 2008 issue, CHOICE magazine published a glowing review of The Deaf History Reader: “This collection edited by [John Vickrey] Van Cleve (formerly, Gallaudet Univ.; co-author, A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America, 1989) is a valuable addition to the ever-expanding library dealing with deaf culture. The nine chapters each focus on a facet of the deaf cultural experience within the U.S., from pioneers in the 17th and 18th centuries to the influential work of Philip J. Hasenstab, pastor and leader of the Chicago Mission for the Deaf in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Along the way, one discovers the pivotal role the eugenics movement played in the spread of the oralism tradition through the active ambiguous agency of Alexander Graham Bell. One chapter explores diverse genetic patterns of deafness as a means of examining the assimilationist or exclusiveness tendencies of various deaf community enclaves, such as Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, among others. Each of the contributors to this seminal text is an eminent historian who provides thorough documentation of the topic. Van Cleve does a masterful job of introducing each chapter, allowing readers to easily immerse themselves into the deaf world. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Students and collections of deaf culture at all levels.” Read more about this rich history in chapter one, Genesis of a Community: The American Deaf Experience in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and order The Deaf History Reader.


The Deaf Way II Reader: Perspectives from the Second International Conference on Deaf Culture, a compendium of select papers from the Deaf Way II Conference, received a stellar review from the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education: “In The Deaf Way II Reader, Harvey Goodstein takes on the overwhelming task of collecting and editing essays focusing on the conference presentations. Amid these papers arise the challenges of global human rights, the right to equal education access, and the uncertain impact of genetic engineering. With the discovery of ‘the Deaf gene,’ Joseph J. Murray’s paper proposes the need to assert ‘what is so valuable about being Deaf that is worthy of a place in the future of humanity.’ Paddy Ladd, in this volume, suggests an answer which harks back to the Deaf-Mute Banquets in France: Because of the ease of communication among Deaf people of various sign language backgrounds, ‘Deaf people manifest the potential ability to become the world’s first truly global citizens and thus serve as models for the rest of society.’ The Deaf Way II Reader provides invaluable documentation of this potential and offers a contemporary glimpse into the global Deaf nation.” Read a paper from part one, and order The Deaf Way II Reader here.


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