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Deaf Identities in the Making:
Local Lives, Transnational Connections|
The experiential difference of deafness installs an initial sense of isolation, strangeness, and loneliness in most deaf people—leading to the tremendous challenge of social identification and existential self-awareness. The fact that many deaf life stories take the narrative format of a travelogue is connected to this and to the early, embodied metaphors of “spatial proximity as difference.” Later, this may lead to an embodied realization of “spatial distance as sameness” and an urge to move ahead for communication opportunities that certainly have few fixed or permanent places.
To state that deaf citizenship “needs no place,” as Wrigley does in this chapter’s epigraph, may be a bit exaggerated. Deaf citizenship, beyond territorial nationalism, will probably be in precarious need of space both in its territorial and social meanings, but not in any resemblance to concepts like “hometown.” However, the translocal and transnational features of Deaf communities are striking to the extent that a signing community might be seen as extremely peripheral within a national framework of understanding. However, in the reverse, the same national communities may, each and every one, be rendered peripheral to the transnational community of signers. This is an observation that sheds further light on the tricky center/periphery binary. Fernandez (2000) explores aspects of this relationship, and he points out the comparative force of peripheral vision/wisdom as heightened reflexivity:
This addresses a theme that becomes obvious in the life narratives of Hilde and Anita, whom we meet in this chapter, and also in the stories in the following chapters. Deaf people, as other minority members, live on the edge of traditional society and employ peripheral vision/wisdom to function in the worlds in which they live. As such they have arrived at a highly comparative outlook on life and their self-identities, which are emerging and less than settled. They thus exemplify the late modern outlook that takes no fixed position for granted, and they engage in a pervasive self-reflection. Deaf identities are thus very much in the making and in the process of “becoming.”