Gallaudet University Press

13:11 Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Last of the Fingerspelling Deaf Mexicans

A New Study Explores the Lives of Mexicans Who Attended the National School for the Deaf

“When I began this project,” shares author Claire L. Ramsey, “I had already felt the pull of life stories. My final paper for my MA in linguistics told the life story and post-retirement reflections of Henry Stack, a Deaf man from Vancouver, Washington, who was raised in Missouri in a large family of Deaf siblings, parents, aunts, and uncles. I was taken with Hank’s responses through his life as a Deaf American to the expectations generated by the American frontier myth of rugged individualism. Hank’s narrative nudged me toward considering the reality that ASL signers in the United States are both culturally Deaf and culturally American. I began to think about American culture, a move that surprised me. It took me a long time to comprehend that swimming in an American Anglo-Saxon and Northern-European watery heritage was just as much a cultural phenomenon as being Japanese in Japanese water or French in French water. It was only a short step to speculate that Deaf people in other countries, who may or may not identify themselves as culturally Deaf, probably also share something with the other people of their nationality, even the hearing people. The Escuela Nacional para Sordomudos (ENS), [translated as the Mexican National School for the Deaf], signers and their life stories offered me a chance to consider what it might mean to be both Deaf and Mexican.”

In The People Who Spell: The Last Students from the Mexican National School for the Deaf, Ramsey focused her research on Deaf Mexicans in Mexico City who had either attended the ENS or were married to someone who attended. “The elderly signers whose life stories I describe here,” notes Ramsey, “truly are the remaining members of an undocumented ENS-rooted group of Deaf people in Mexico City that had a life span of about 100 years. Students who came from other parts of the country to attend ENS tended to remain in or near Mexico City, so it is likely that the group I describe in this book represents a portion of the last group of Deaf Mexicans who were educated with other Deaf signers in the school setting provided by ENS, and who had first contact with Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) from other Deaf signers in a school context. By relating the stories of Mexican Deaf people I hope not only to describe ways of life that contrast with those of U.S. Deaf people, but also to push readers to consider what it means to be both Deaf and American, Deaf and Canadian, or Deaf and Mexican. If we are to take culture as a rich and explanatory account of Deaf communities, then we cannot avoid taking culture as a rich and key account of the larger national communities of which Deaf communities are a part.”

Read more about this intriguing study in chapter one, Somos Sordos Mexicanos: We Are Deaf Mexicans.” Order The People Who Spell online and receive 20% off the regular price by typing “NOV2011” in the box labeled “use promo code” next to the checkout button. You may also order by mail.

Reference and Research Book News published this notice about The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure in its summer issue: “[Carolyn] McCaskill, Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, and Joseph Hill present a book and video disk exploring Black American Sign Language (ASL). They describe the socio-historical reality that made a separate variety of ASL possible, and the features of what is called Black ASL. They also investigate whether Black ASL displays the same kinds of features that have been identified for African American English. Finally, they look for unique features of the variety and analyze the linguistic and social factors that condition their use.” This new volume and its accompanying DVD present the first empirical study that begins to fill in the linguistic gaps about Black ASL. You can read more about this one-of-a-kind study in chapter one. Order your copy of The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL today.

Interpreting in Legal Settings, the fourth volume in the Studies in Interpretation series, “endeavors to bring [forth] evidence-based practices from both signed and spoken language interpreter researchers with a particular focus on the work that occurs in legal settings,” explains editors Debra Russell and Sandra Hale. Interpreting, the international journal of research and practice in interpreting, praised this collection in a recent review, stating: “This edited volume is an excellent collection of empirically grounded studies. It would be a useful text for any scholar who does research in this field and ideal for graduate or advanced undergraduate level courses. With its wide variety of research methodologies and abundance of important findings, this is a book very much worth reading.” The full review is available online. Read chapter two, Interpreting in Asylum Appeal Hearings: Roles and Norms Revisited, and order Interpreting in Legal Settings here.

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