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5:5 Wednesday, May 21, 2003

A World’s Eye View of Deafness

Exploring International Deaf Communities

“The challenges faced by deaf people in Sweden are quite different from those in Nicaragua and are set on a common global stage,” explains Leila Monaghan and Constanze Schmaling, two of the contributors of Many Ways to Be Deaf: International Variation in Deaf Communities edited by Monaghan, Schmaling, Karen Nakamura, and Graham H. Turner. In this volume, twenty-four international scholars have contributed their findings from studying Deaf communities in Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Nicaragua, and the United States. Sixteen chapters consider the various antecedents of each country’s native signed language, taking into account the historical background for their development and also the effects of foreign influences and changes in philosophies by the larger, dominant hearing societies.

“Key themes of this volume include how Deaf communities have survived despite opposition by those who thought and think that Deaf people should not be allowed to have their own separate communities outside of hearing cultures, how forms of education interact with and are reflections of larger sociocultural processes, and how signed languages are crucial parts of Deaf communities everywhere.” The diversity of background and training among the contributors to Many Ways to Be Deaf distinguishes it as a genuine and unique multicultural examination of the myriad manifestations of being Deaf in a diverse world. Gain more insight about the differences in the Taiwanese culture by reading chapter twelve, The Chiying School of Taiwan: A Foreigner’s Perspective, and receive a 20% discount off the regular price when you order Many Ways to Be Deaf.

Another showcase of international Deaf diversity can be found in The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers. In celebration of the 2002 international festival of Deaf people at Gallaudet University, editor Tonya M. Stremlau assembled a remarkable compilation of poetry, essays, short stories, and one play. These fascinating works were penned by 16 international writers, each of whom is deaf or hard of hearing. Many of the writers of The Deaf Way II Anthology are well-known for their past publications and “have many different things to say about life as a deaf person, yet their experiences are common to deaf people everywhere,” comments Stremlau in her introduction. “They tell of being isolated at (hearing) family dinners or of not knowing what is announced over a public address system. They tell of what it is like to be a deaf writer, including dealing with expectations that they can’t write because they are deaf.” Read works by two of the recognized United States writers, Christopher Jon Heuer and Raymond Luczak, and order The Deaf Way II Anthology.

Cambridge University Press’s Studies in Second Language Acquisition journal lauds the contributors of Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language saying, “Based on seven years of research spread across the United States, including data collected from seven sites, Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language is a major contribution to the growing literature on the linguistics and sociolinguistics of ASL. It seeks to ‘provide a comprehensive description of the variables and constraints at work in sign language variation’ (p. xv), building on the existing linguistic literature dealing with ASL. It succeeds admirably, if not in providing the final word on these complex issues, then by offering not only fascinating insights into sign language variation but also an empirical database that is unmatched in its depth and breadth in the field.” You can read the review in its entirety, as well as an excerpt from chapter one and order Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language here.


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