In July 2012, the 8th Deaf History International (DHI) Conference featured 27 presentations from members of Deaf communities around the world who related their own autobiographies as well as the biographies of historical Deaf individuals. The presenters came from 12 different countries, but their stories traverse many other locales. Thus, they created a transnational phenomenon of widespread interest in the collection, documentation, and dissemination of Deaf history by and for members of the deaf community. Telling Deaf Lives: Agents of Change brings together the best of the DHI Conference offerings in this volume.
Due to the dearth of formal research on deaf people, Deaf community historians drove the preservation of the stories in this collection. Their diversity is remarkable: Melissa Anderson and Breda Carty describe the Cosmopolitan Correspondence Club, a group of Deaf individuals who corresponded in the early 20th century from Australia to Western Europe to the United States; Ulla-Bell Thorin recounts first-hand growing up deaf in Sweden and her process in authoring six memoirs; Harry Lang reflects on writing biographies of numerous Deaf Americans in the arts and science; Akio Suemori profiles the first Deaf president of a Japanese school for the Deaf; Tatiana Davidenko writes about her Deaf family’s experience during the World War II siege of Leningrad; Theara Yim and Julie Chateauvert look at the evolution of ASL poetry by analyzing works of prominent ASL poets Clayton Valli, Peter Cook, and Kenny Lerner. These and the other contributions here enshrine Deaf people in collective memory by virtue of disseminating and preserving their stories.