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7:10 Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Being, Becoming, and Longing

Profiles of Ten Norwegian Deaf People and Their Life Stories

Who am I? Who are we? Where am I going? Where are we going? What is this life all about? “These are all important questions related to identity,” writes Jan-Kåre Breivik, author of Deaf Identities in the Making: Local Lives, Transnational Connections.  “However, identity is a tricky concept. It connotes sameness and is used to differentiate oneself from others, natives from foreigners, deaf people from hearing people, and so forth. At an individual level, sameness is connected to the process of becoming and creating oneself. At a collective level, it is about group formations and the process of becoming a member by achieving recognition as an equal to other members in certain ways. This also implies a negation: I am, and we are, not the same as members of other groups. The identification process, therefore, calls for recognition of being different. These processes are never easy.”

Deaf Identities in the Making is based on anthropological research among deaf Norwegians, with a focus upon deaf life stories. Approaching the Norwegian Deaf community by asking for life storytellers through a national Deaf magazine, Breivik posed the following questions: “Have you ever thought about why your life has become what it is today? Which events have influenced you the most? Did you ever consider writing your life story?” The resulting ten profiles presented in Deaf Identities in the Making “explore ambiguity and a not-yet-fully-achieved sense of selfhood,” explains Breivik. “These stories originate mostly from deaf people who would like a stronger link to the Deaf world and get credit for more than one anchorage point in life. The emerging attitude among many deaf youngsters is that they take their cultural Deafness for granted, while at the same time engaging in a critical dialogue on the problems of a monocultural tendency within Deaf identity politics. This new attitude is reflected in several of the following life stories and is also brought into the discussion on collective challenges in the final chapter of this book.”

Read chapter 1 “Being, Becoming, and Longing,” and order Deaf Identities in the Making: Local Lives, Transnational Connections at your exclusive subscriber discount rate of 20% off the regular price.

A review from History: Reviews of New Books offers accolades for Edmund Booth: Deaf Pioneer by Harry G. Lang, stating, “Gallaudet University Press produces beautiful books, and this clearly written volume is no exception, with plentiful crisp illustrations and tasteful organizational markers. It is accessible to a general audience, and would be useful as supplementary reading in a college-level U.S. history course or deaf history course.” In Edmund Booth: Deaf Pioneer, Lang follows in fascinating detail the amazing career of Edmund Booth and his equally amazing wife, Mary Ann Walworth Booth. He describes Booth as a “Renaissance man, a farm boy who grew up to distinguish himself as a journalist, educator, and founder of schools and organizations. [Booth] was also profoundly deaf, as well as blind in one eye, and he possessed ‘the soul of a pioneer and a spirit restless for freedom and independence.’” Learn more about this American original and the pioneer days as seen through Deaf eyes in chapter 5 “The Making of a Forty-Niner,” and order Edmund Booth.

In Disability Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970-1999, Sharon Barnartt, coauthor of Deaf President Now!, and Richard Scotch trace thirty years of protests, organizations, and legislative victories within the deaf and disabled populations. The authors analyze what constitutes “contentious” politics and what distinguishes a sustained social movement. They also consider the pressing question of exactly who is “deaf enough” or “disabled enough” to adequately represent their constituencies. A review from Disability Studies Quarterly provides a ringing endorsement for Disability Protests: “In the professional opinion of this reviewer,” notes Mitchell A. Kaplan, Beth Israel Medical Center, NY, “Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999 is an excellent book that makes a significant contribution to the social understanding of major issues that are important to the disability community. I would strongly recommend that the book be placed on the reading of list of university faculty who teach graduate level courses in Sociology, History and Disability Studies.” Read chapter 2 “Collective Consciousness and a Profile of Issues,” and order Disability Protests.

The upcoming Revolutions in Sign Language Studies: Linguistics, Literature, Literacy conference, which takes place on March 22-24, 2006, promises to be an insightful discussion about the latest research on linguistics, sociolinguistics, literature, literacy and Deaf people, and all other aspects of the study of sign languages. Keynote speakers include Dan Slobin, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA; Ben Bahan, Professor and Chair, Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC; and Marlon Kuntze, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley, CA. For more information and to register by the deadline date of December 15, 2005, go to http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/gupiconference/index.html.


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