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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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My own strategy towards the hearing world has been to tell freely about my hearing problems, in order to avoid unnecessary communication problems. But even if I can hear better than most other deaf persons, there are a lot of problematic situations. It can be very difficult to get the right information at public places; for instance at the metro stations where important messages are only given through the low quality loudspeaker systems, when interesting TV programs are without text, and when I meet hearing friends talking quickly and abruptly.

Self-Confident Orientations

When Anita tells more about herself, her deaf identity could be seen as downplayed, but only if we envisage that being deaf is to be restricted into certain ways and activities. Anita is a young deaf person who seems to be part of the general youth culture, living her life fully by combining all identity bits that are available to her. It is a position where little is self-evident as part of a tradition. She is in a position where much can be actively chosen, which is well demonstrated when it comes to politics and religion:

You know, we have our own deaf church, but I only go there sporadically and when I have to, and I guess I am in the same position as other so-called Christian Norwegians. I am a member of the state church, but do not feel too comfortable with that. I am not exactly a “born again Christian,” and do not think it is right to say that our God is the only right God. There are so many versions of Christianity, and there are other interesting religions as well. The religion I feel most for right now is Buddhism.

Her main point is that she feels free to do what she likes and that she reflects from a position that is less predetermined and disciplined. Tradition is thus not something she feels she has inherited but something she can choose. This is more difficult in politics:

When it comes to politics, I am not so certain any more. A few years ago, I was about to join the youth group of the Maoist Workers Party (AKP), but not now. Now I have realized that every political party has something of interest, so I am trying to find out which one I agree most with or do not disagree too much with. I am going to vote this year for my first time, and now I find the Conservative Party (Høyre) quite interesting. But at the same time they are too old fashioned on some issues.

Her switching between the Maoists and the Conservatives is interesting. One could say that this points to her relatively immature understanding of politics. This is, however, not necessarily the case, because the distinction between the political parties has become less clear-cut in the past decades. Her lingering could further be reflective of a late modern rejection of whole packages of meanings presented by the political parties through ideological wrappings. She has, in any event, retained an interestingly strong faith in the political system, a system that she clearly sees as belonging to her as well. She is, for one, devoted to using her right to vote and engaging in the political democracy of the Norwegian nation. She has thus been subjected to a rare socialization process within minorities, where she feels competent and potentially politically efficient in both hearing and Deaf worlds. She also escaped the fake hearing traps to which oral deaf people are often subjected and which seem to lead them to a less politically efficient and self-directed understanding of self and society (Roots 1999). At the same time, she escapes the marginalization trap into which many deaf signers seem to fall, where they shun national politics as hearing politics (Roots 1999). Through her multiple positioning as deaf, hard of hearing, deaf of deaf parents, adopted, a fluent signer, and highly competent in written and spoken Norwegian, she has reached a level

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