|Deaf and Disability Studies|
From Disability Studies Quarterly, cont’d.
The second section of the book, “Alliances and Activism,” opens with an investigation into Deaf and hearing social relationships in “Identifying Allies” by Joan Ostrove and Gina Oliva, an article aimed at demonstrating collaborative works and cultural understanding in spite of identity differences. In Lindsey Patterson's “Unlikely Alliances,” Deaf and hearing peoples are examined within the context of Gallaudet College in the 19th century. Patterson argues that contrary to the longstanding notion in American history of a tight-knit Deaf community, Deaf people did not have an “immediate cultural kinship” (145), particularly across lines of gender and race. Other historical events, however, demonstrate how Deaf people joined political forces with disabled people to redefine the concept of disability in terms of social justice and accessibility. Some of this history is chronicled in Corbett Joan O’Toole’s “Dale Dahl and Judy Heumann,” which examines the establishment of independent living centers at Berkeley during the 1970s, and in Leila Monaghan’s and Constanze Schmaling’s “Deaf Community Approaches to HIV/AIDS,” which investigates activist communities in New York and Quebec. Each article in this section focuses on the importance of cross-cultural understanding between Deaf and hearing people across historical periods.
Deaf and Disability Studies devotes a significant amount of time to stressing the need to re-define Deaf identities, as evidenced by the third and final section of the book, “Boundaries and Overlaps,” which examines alliances and divisions between the two fields of its title. Jessica Lee’s “‘What Not to Pack’” acknowledges that the “Deaf-World” framework unifies deaf people beyond class, race and national boundaries. However, Lee agrees with fellow Deaf Studies scholar Yerker Andersson that the “Deaf-World” framework will need to be further expanded to include diversity within the deaf community as well as internationally. In an interview conducted by Susan Burch, Andersson maintains that Deaf Studies continues to use a theoretical foundation that stems from the social model of deafness, whereas Disability Studies has expanded its analyses “by incorporating queer theory, feminist theory and critical race theory” (195). In another interview, conducted by Alison Kafer, Nirmala Erevelles argues that Deaf Studies contributes to the field of Disability Studies and vice versa. Such contribution entails the expansion of both academic fields’ theoretical foundations. Erevelles emphasizes the strength of Deaf Studies: “I see Deaf Studies as disturbing the order of things, especially as they stand in regard to the politics of knowledge” (210). Speaking on audism, Erevelles also points out that Deaf Studies has shown that Deaf people lead vision-oriented lives that replace and, perhaps, enrich their lives more than auditory-based experiences.
Auditory hegemony is further explored in Soya Mori’s “Testing the Social Model of Disability,” an article describing the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At that convention, the UN placed financial limitations on its willingness to provide access to communication in sign language for Deaf people from different nations, despite providing written and spoken access to as many as six official languages for other countries. As Mori suggests, this indicates that financial concerns were a priority over “social justice and equal access” (237). The closing essay in this section, Brenda Jo Brueggemann’s “The Tango,” explains in detail the “dance” between Deaf and Disability Studies. According to Brueggemann, audism is on one side, while ableism is on the other. Both sides influence the frameworks and identity construction of deaf and disabled people.
Burch and Kafer spent three years putting together this collection of articles. They write of their experience, “We struggled, both as individuals and as a pair, to articulate what drives this work: what precisely, unifies and guides these texts?” (xxiv-xxv). The selection of articles in Deaf and Disability Studies demonstrates how a wide selection of approaches can offer multiple points of analysis and perspective. Altogether, this collection attempts to capture the overall potential of what Deaf and Disability Studies could be if the two fields were critically integrated. Because the writers selected come from a wide range of specializations and approaches, the book takes on a vast range of theoretical approaches. Readers who are familiar with the fields of Deaf and Disability Studies will see that the writers’ contributions differ in not only their approaches, but also their standpoints. This will be a useful book for those who want a taste of many different analyses that demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of Deaf and Disability Studies, revealing the complexities and divergences of both fields while demonstrating their intersections.
Susan Burch is an associate professor of American Studies and director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College.
Alison Kafer is an assistant professor of Feminist Studies at Southwestern University.
Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-464-7, 6 x 9 casebound, 296 pages, tables, references, index
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