|View Our Catalog||Deaf Identities in the Making|
From Deafness and Education International
This book contains a collection of narratives about ten Deaf people: their lives, their experiences and their sense of identity. The subjects are all Norwegian Deaf people and users of Norwegian Sign Language, but one of Jan-Kåre Breivik’s main arguments is that they should be understood beyond the framework of Norway and of national territorial boundaries. He sees their experience as being part of a trans-national Deaf experience.
Each chapter deals with a different person and a different set of experiences, but throughout the book the central theme is one of shared identity. Although they remain distinct individuals, together, their stories present accounts of common challenges and conflicts. While there is some focus on negative aspects of the Deaf experience, Breivik’s book shows evidence of changing perceptions and of a more positive outlook in recent times. Overall, he shows us the commonality of Deaf experience and identity, and demonstrates that this commonality draws Deaf people together.
The author’s keen observation of his Deaf subjects shows a genuine empathy, yet he remains objective and gives each individual the opportunity to present his or her own account in their own way. Taken together, these provide a deep insight into the lives and experiences of Norwegian Deaf people, and show how similar these are to the lives and experiences of Deaf people worldwide.
Breivik’s Deaf subjects describe their lives in terms of barriers, oppression and exclusion, as well as their sense of belonging to a linguistic minority which gives them a cultural identity different to that of the mainstream community. There is a sense of pride in their language and culture, and of rejoicing in their Deafhood and of wanting to become part of a wider Deaf community. At the same time there is some frustration and conflict, and a wish to fit in with the mainstream and not be ‘different’.
It is clear that Breivik upholds the social model of deafness, and he clearly states his firm belief that Deaf people belong to a linguistic minority rather than being amongst those people labelled as ‘disabled’. In the later chapters he describes the internationalism of Deafhood, citing his experiences at the Thirteenth World Deaf Congress as a demonstration of this. He also draws parallels with the gay experience: like gay people, Deaf people are drawn together by their shared characteristics, and by similar experiences of oppression and prejudice, to the extent that it overrides any sense of national identity.
This is a valuable book for Deaf and hearing readers who wish to know more about what it means to be Deaf. It will be useful for teachers and students of deaf studies, sign sociolinguistics, as well as sociology and social anthropology. It is highly readable and accessible, and above all interesting, and could appeal to the general Deaf reader as well as the scholar or teacher.
Jan-Kåre Breivik is a social anthropologist and researcher at Stein Rokkan Center for Social Studies, University of Bergen, Norway.
ISBN 978-1-56368-590-3, 6 x 9 paperback, 248 pages, index
To order by mail, print our Order Form or call:
TEL 1-800-621-2736; (773) 568-1550 8 am - 5 pm CST