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Deaf Empowerment

Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric

Katherine A. Jankowski

Publication Year: 1997

Employing the methodology successfully used to explore other social movements in America, this meticulous study examines the rhetorical foundation that motivated Deaf people to work for social change during the past two centuries. In clear, concise prose, Jankowski begins by explaining her use of the term social movement in relation to the desire for change among Deaf people and analyzes the rhetoric they used, not limited to spoken language, to galvanize effective action. Central to Deaf Empowerment is the struggle between the dominant hearing society and Deaf people over the best means of communication, with the educational setting as the constant battleground. This evocative work first tracks the history of interaction between these two factions, highlighting the speaking majority’s desire to compel Deaf people to conform to “the human sciences” conventionality by learning speech. Then, it sharply focuses on the development of the Deaf social movement's ideology to seek general recognition of sign language as a valid cultural variation. Also, the influence of social movements of the 60s and 70s is examined in relation to the changing context and perception of the Deaf movement, as well as to its rhetorical refinement. Deaf Empowerment delineates the apex of effective Deaf rhetoric in describing the success of the Deaf President Now! protest at Gallaudet University in 1988, its aftermath, and ensuing strategies. It concludes with an assessment of the goal of a multicultural society and offers suggestions for community building through a new humanitarianism. Scholars of social movements and Deaf studies will find it to be a uniquely provocative addition to their libraries and classrooms.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

Much can be learned about a group of people and the power structure of their society by studying the process of change and its impact on the greater society. My first experience with attempting to alter the status quo occurred when I was thirteen years old. My classmates and I arrived at the conclusion that we ...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-18

Electricity filled the air on March 6, 1988, as large crowds flocked to the auditorium at Gallaudet University, the world's only liberal arts university for Deaf students, to await the announcement of the name of Gallaudet's first Deaf president. The Deaf community2 had worked feverishly for this moment. ...

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2 A History of the Deaf Community in America

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pp. 19-36

A study of the Deaf social movement presumes the existence of a community of Deaf people. A number of questions then arise: How did such a community come into being? What factors played a part in its evolution? What is the pattern of life for such a community? What are the ingredients that foster the ...

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3 The Struggle Begins

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pp. 37-65

The contemporary social movement of Deaf people in America has its roots in the historical struggles between the dominant society and Deaf people. So pervasive are the ideological struggles between the dominant culture and the Deaf community that the issues that marked the early Deaf movement ...

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4 The Political Forces of the 1960s and 1970s

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pp. 67-98

The early years of the Deaf social movement brought out ideological tensions: the dominant society sought first to segregate Deaf people from society, then to integrate them into the mainstream. The impact of dominant discourses was evident in the reign of oral domination in the education of Deaf people for ...

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5 The Deaf President Now Protest

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pp. 99-135

The era of the 1960s and 1970s saw the Deaf social movement move toward constituting the Deaf community as a linguistic and cultural group with a distinct identity. The separatist rhetoric that marked the changing consciousness of the Deaf social movement during that period paved the way to a strengthened "can do" rhetoric. Accordingly, the Deaf social movement ...

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6 Seeking a Diversified America

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pp. 137-162

The Gallaudet protest phase of the Deaf social movement typified what Stewart, Smith, and Denton characterize as the "enthusiastic mobilization" stage (1989, 25). During this stage, optimism among movement participants climaxes. Social movements, however, cannot remain in the enthusiastic mobilization stage for long periods of time because of the high level of ...

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7 Conclusion

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pp. 163-174

This book began as an examination of the Deaf social movement's rhetorical strategies to shape empowerment of its cultural identity. Such a study brings a new understanding of the role social movements play in the empowerment of not only the Deaf community, but of other marginalized groups as well. The ...


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pp. 175-191


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pp. 193-197

E-ISBN-13: 9781563681998
E-ISBN-10: 1563681994
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680618
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680610

Page Count: 206
Publication Year: 1997

OCLC Number: 43475855
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Deaf Empowerment

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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- Civil rights -- United States -- History.
  • Deaf -- Means of communication -- United States -- History.
  • Deaf -- United States -- History.
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