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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Signs and Voices: Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts

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Figure 1.

My Grandpa + Grandma are deaf. This place makes me think of them. . . . Me and my twin are deaf and we are proud.[55]
These writers focused on their own relationship to the events depicted, and by doing so, recovered the individual stories that comprise some of the history on display.

The textual inscriptions of dialogue between one writer and another were very revealing, particularly when what was at stake was representation of Deaf people as opposed to pathological representations of deafness. One visitor suggested incorporating information on cochlear implants because that “would help people with normal hearing to understand the implant is not a ‘cure.’ ” Another visitor circled the word normal and wrote in the margins, “ouch!”[56] (See figure 1.)

Another visitor responded using the phrase “hearing impaired,” and a separate visitor wrote, again in the margins, “many deaf people prefer the word DEAF, not hearing impaired!”[57] (See figure 2.)

In figure 3, someone drew a human figure with the caption “Deaf people Rule!” On the other side of the page, another person, probably a younger child than the one who drew the first figure, wrote “I wish we knew a way to help deaf people.” That person had drawn a human figure holding up a hand to his ear, with a word balloon asking, “What did you say!”[58] Clearly, what was being contested here were very different ways of conceptualizing and embodying deafness and Deaf lives.

Many comments by Deaf people about the Deaf subjectivities on view echoed current narratives of and about Deaf identity and history, particularly through references to Deaf President Now (DPN)—a protest by Gallaudet students, alumni, and their allies in 1988 that resulted in the appointment of the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University—and through the use of common discursive elements for describing Deaf identity through the sociolinguistic and sociological/anthropological model:

What a great start! . . . Its [sic] in a good location for “deaf-impaired” (hearing) people to see and start to understand and accept that deaf people can do anything, but hear![59]

Deaf Can!![60]

Great exhibit, but perhaps some info about how deaf people do not consider themselves disabled, but rather a “language minority.”[61]


55. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

56. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

57. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

58. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

59. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

60. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.

61. Excerpt, Smithsonian Logbook. 2002. Gallaudet University Archives.


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