Gallaudet University Press

7:9 Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A New Deaf Community and Its Language

A Nine-Year Study in Nicaragua Reveals Communication Among Its Deaf Community

“In 1968, there was no deaf community nor any commonly accepted form of sign language used by groups of deaf persons in Nicaragua. But in 1997, when I did my dissertation fieldwork, there was,” writes Laura Polich, author of The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua: With Sign Language You Can Learn So Much. “The role of deaf persons in the greater Nicaraguan society started to change about sixty years ago, and it shifted dramatically in the past twenty-five years when a deaf community formed. This evolution took place within such recent memory that ethnographic and historical information about the period before the community existed can still be collected. The main actors involved in the community’s formation are still available to be interviewed. The Nicaraguan experience, then, offers a fascinating focus for examination of how deaf communities form, as well as a wonderful opportunity to think about why they form.”

The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua features interviews with the older members of the National Nicaraguan Association of the Deaf (ANSNIC), hearing individuals who were involved in providing education to deaf children in the 1946–2003 period, hearing people who had deaf relatives, and the many members ranging from age 15-40 who participate in activities at the ANSNIC clubhouse in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. Polich further explains, “This book discusses the conclusions that I came to on the basis of my nine-year investigation. I found that the use of a ‘standardized’ sign language in Nicaragua did not emerge as an independent entity until there was a community of users meeting on a regular basis and beyond childhood. The adoption and molding of Nicarguan Sign Language (NSL) did not happen suddenly, but was a process that took many years and was fed by multiple influences.”

Read more about this captivating study in Polich’s introduction, and order The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua at a special savings of 20%.

Disability Studies Quarterly extols author Hannah Joyner’s From Pity Pride: Growing Up Deaf in the Old South stating, “Joyner’s book is a well-documented look into a unique time in the history of the deaf community in this country. With patient reading of this text filled with extensively quoted original source material, the social and cultural history of the time does come alive. In fact, the family stories described by this history do not seem all that different from some of the stories that might be told by parents of deaf children in present times.” In this unique and fascinating history, Hannah Joyner depicts in striking detail the circumstances of those who were called “victims” of a “terrible misfortune” and makes it clear that Deaf people in the North also endured prejudice. She also explains how the cultural rhetoric of paternalism and dependency in the South codified a stringent system of oppression and hierarchy that left little room for self-determination for Deaf southerners. Read more in chapter 7 “With the Eyes to Hear and the Hands to Speak”, and order From Pity to Pride.

Gallaudet University Press Institute, the educational division of Gallaudet University Press, presents Revolutions in Sign Language Studies: Linguistics, Literature, Literacy, the fifth international conference, to be held March 22-24, 2006 at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. Known for their research on linguistics, sociolinguistics, literature, literacy and Deaf people, and all other aspects of the study of sign languages, keynote speakers include Benjamin Bahan, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Diane Lillo-Martin, Scott Liddell, MJ Bienvenu, and many more. Register on-line now through December 15, 2005, and receive a 10% discount off the regular registration fee of $250. For more information about the conference, go to http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/gupiconference/index.html.

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