This book is an ethnographic study of the Deaf community of Utah Valley that examines the role of language ideologies in the negotiation of Deaf identities.
The term deaf often sparks heated debates about authority and authenticity. The concept of Deaf identity and affiliation with the DEAF-WORLD are constantly negotiated social constructions that rely heavily on the use of American Sign Language. However, given the incredible diversity of Deaf people, these constructions vary widely. From Deaf people born into culturally Deaf families and who have used ASL since birth, to those born into hearing families and for whom ASL is a secondary language (if they use it at all), to hearing children of Deaf adults whose first language is ASL, and beyond, the criteria for membership in the Deaf community is based on a variety of factors and perspectives.
Bryan K. Eldredge seeks to more precisely understand the relationship between ASL use and Deaf identity using the tools of linguistic anthropology. In this work, he presents research resulting from fieldwork with the Deaf community of Utah Valley. Through informal interactions and formal interviews, he explores the role of discourse in the projection and construction of Deaf identities and, conversely, considers how ideas about language affect the discourse that shapes identities. He finds that specific linguistic ideologies exist that valorize some forms of language over others and that certain forms of ASL serve to establish a culturally Deaf identity. My Mother Made Me Deaf demonstrates that the DEAF-WORLD consists of a multitude of experiences and ways of being even as it is bound together by certain essential elements that are common to Deaf people.
Bryan K. Eldredge is a professor in the ASL and Deaf Studies Program at Utah Valley University.
"Any reader with a general interest in linguistic anthropology or particular interest in language practices of a minority would find this book informative and insightful."— Language in Society