We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Damned for Their Difference

The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled

Jan Branson and Don Miller

Publication Year: 2002

Until the recent recognition of Deaf culture and the legitimacy of signed languages, majority societies around the world have classified Deaf people as “disabled,” a term that separates all persons so designated from the mainstream in a disparaging way. Damned for Their Difference offers a well-founded explanation of how this discrimination came to be through a discursive exploration of the cultural, social, and historical contexts of these attitudes and behavior toward deaf people, especially in Great Britain. Authors Jan Branson and Don Miller examine the orientation toward and treatment of deaf people as it developed from the 17th century through the 20th century. Their wide-ranging study explores the varied constructions of the definition of “disabled,” a term whose meaning hinges upon constant negotiation between parties, ensuring that no finite meaning is ever established. Damned for Their Difference provides a sociological understanding of disabling practices in a way that has never been seen before.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (20.4 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.1 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (41.0 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.6 KB)
pp. ix-xvii

Over the last decade, the public has been growing more aware of the fact that deaf people have been discriminated against and that approaches toward the nature and use of sign languages lie at the heart of these discriminatory processes. The driving force in the cultivation of this growing awareness has been the rebirth ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.6 KB)
pp. xix-xx

Many people have helped us over the years as we have sought to understand the cultural construction first of "the disabled" and then of "deaf people as disabled." Paddy Ladd first led us into the challenging field of deaf studies. In Australia, our Deaf colleagues and students have been vital to our effective engagement ...

PART ONE. The Cultural Construction of "the Disabled": A Historical Overview

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (87.4 KB)
pp. 3-12

Before we can understand the historically and culturally specific context that underlies how people who are deaf are conceptualized and treated as being disabled and before we can understand the violence, overt and symbolic, that these views and actions have wreaked on those damned by their difference, we must ...

read more

1. The Cosmological Tyranny of Science:From the New Philosophy to Eugenics

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.8 MB)
pp. 13-35

For the people of Britain and western Europe in the fifteenth century, life and its vagaries were mysterious. If answers to its mysteries were to be found, they were to be found in the Scriptures, in the word of God interpreted by His priesthood, or in other religiosities with heritages lost in time. The world ...

read more

2. The Domestication of Difference:The Classification, Segregation,and Institutionalization of Unreason

pdf iconDownload PDF (146.1 KB)
pp. 36-56

By the eighteenth century, "reason" and science stood triumphant, and madness was marginalized and confined. People who were mad came to be seen as pitiful rather than dangerous and as in need of help. Madness was viewed as a form of chaos and degradation that must be contained. It was no longer ...

PART TWO. The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as "Disabled": A Sociological History of Discrimination

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (82.9 KB)
pp. 59-65

We now turn our attention to the processes by which deaf people became identified as a category of humanity, classified as “disabled" but distinguished from other forms of disability. Deaf people have been and continue to be the focus of intensive academic, educational, and medical attention and ...

read more

3. The New Philosophy, Sign Language,and the Search for the Perfect Language in the Seventeenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.8 MB)
pp. 66-90

We begin this history of the disablement of deaf people as most histories do, in ancient times. But the main focus is on the seventeenth century in Britain when, as outlined in chapter 2, in the battle of the sciences, the new philosophers triumphed over their more radical nonmechanistic fellows and the ...

read more

4. The Formalization of Deaf Education and the Cultural Construction of "the Deaf" and "Deafness" in the Eighteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.9 MB)
pp. 91-120

As the education of people who were deaf became more formalized through the eighteenth century, the confrontation between "the universal tongue of knowledge and power" and the "vulgar," natural language of deaf people became ...

read more

5. The "Great Confinement" of Deaf People through Education in the Nineteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.9 MB)
pp. 121-147

The nineteenth century was a time of radical educational change throughout the Western world and its colonies. The education of the masses and not of only the privileged few became an essential ideological practice as a democratic polity asserted its control over the coordination of newly industrialized ...

read more

6. The Alienation and Individuation of Deaf People: Eugenics and Pure Oralism in the Late-Nineteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 148-177

In chapter 2, we discussed how professionalism and the depersonalization of disabilities generally affected the way that people regarded and treated those who were deemed to be disabled. The medical definitions that defined deafness and deaf people themselves as pathological and in need of treatment ...

read more

7. Cages of Reason - Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People in the Twentieth Century: Teacher Training, Therapy, and Technology

pdf iconDownload PDF (533.0 KB)
pp. 178-202

In chapter 2, we outlined how professionalism, bureaucratization, and eugenics affected the cultural construction of "the disabled" through the late-nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Here, we explore those processes in relation to the education of deaf students. We continue to focus on developments ...

read more

8The Denial of Deafness in the Late-Twentieth Century:The Surgical Violence of Medicine and the Symbolic Violence of Mainstreaming

pdf iconDownload PDF (179.1 KB)
pp. 203-232

The years after the Second World War saw the firm consolidation of oralism throughout the Western world and of the technologies associated with the treatment of hearing loss. In Britain, Farrar's example continued to promote high hopes among parents and teachers of deaf students, but higher education ...

read more

9. Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism: The State and the Limits of Change in the Battles for Human Rights for Deaf People

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.1 KB)
pp. 233-253

On 27 June 1999, four thousand people marched through London in support of British Sign Language (BSL), demanding its recognition as the language of the British Deaf community and asserting the right of deaf children to be educated in a bilingual environment with BSL as the language of instruction. They demanded ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.6 KB)
pp. 255-257


pdf iconDownload PDF (199.8 KB)
pp. 259-288


pdf iconDownload PDF (116.5 KB)
pp. 289-300

E-ISBN-13: 9781563681714
E-ISBN-10: 1563681714
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681219
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681218

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2002