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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Identities in the Making: Local Lives, Transnational Connections

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The social control that she thus experiences troubles her. This contains both a critique of the smallness of the Deaf community in Norway and a trait that she simply has to live with—at the present stage in life at least. In this, she touches upon strong sentiments also expressed by Hilde about the limiting aspects of the close-knit village life. Anita has, contrary to many other deaf people on the margin, the necessary strength to counter some of the potentially limiting forces that she identifies. Again, with the support of family members:

You know, my mother is a very well known woman among the deaf, so a lot of people keep asking me, “Are you going to be like your mother when you grow up?” Once, there was a funny episode after my mother held a lecture on the difference between deaf children of hearing parents and deaf children of deaf parents, followed by an open debate. My mother was surprised when she noticed that the next person to comment was I, her own daughter. I corrected some of the arguments she made in her lecture. But she said it was well done of me to do so. “Do not ever accept too easily what other persons tell you!” was her comment, and she understands very well that I am taking another route in life than her. I am not that interested in deaf history and the linguistic features of sign language.

Anita identifies herself as deaf and part of the Deaf community, but she has strong connections to the hearing world as well, with several hearing friends. This is, she states, no problem.

Internet: A Social Crossroads

It is primarily through the Internet that she has made her first and more lasting connections:

It really began a few years ago through chatting activities on the Internet. I met my best friend, Trude, on a BBS[1] — a chat site some years ago. Since then we have been friends. We meet each other regularly on the Net, but also face to face on holidays and computer gatherings. My boyfriend was initially a Net-chat-friend of Trude, and when I met him face-to-face at a computer gathering, we fell in love. My computer activities have really helped me to meet people also outside of the deaf world. My boyfriend has now become very interested in learning sign language so that he can communicate freely with my family and my deaf relatives.

The Internet has helped her, she says, to develop a bigger social milieu. Her deep interest in computing has resulted in her spending quite a lot of her spare time at computer gatherings. Internet practice has been relatively weak in the deaf environments until recently, and to reach a level of excellence, she has simply been compelled to go to hearing people. Because of her excellent performance on the Internet, she has also been headhunted by a computer company for short-term work opportunities. Her ability to cope in a hearing environment is thus quite good, and she is able to communicate in spoken Norwegian without much trouble in one-to-one settings. Some hearing friends have also learned some signs.

I haven't been pushing this, but my friend Trude has learned a few signs. But when we meet each other, we usually speak. It is the same with my boyfriend. When we communicate just the two of us, we use spoken Norwegian. But when we are with my family, he is eager to learn more signs. He really wants to communicate with my parents. It is no problem having hearing friends, and it has always been quite OK. My brother and I have a few hearing friends from childhood. They lived in the same area as we did, and they were interested in learning signs from us. But most of the time we just played together. We are not close friends anymore, but whenever we meet, we say hello.

1. BBS is an acronym for bulletin board system. This was one of the first widely used platforms for electronic chatting.

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