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Signs and Voices

Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts

Kristin A. Lindgren, Doreen DeLuca, and Donna Jo Napoli, Editors

Publication Year: 2008

Cochlear implants, mainstreaming, genetic engineering, and other ethical dilemmas confronting deaf people mandated a new, wide-ranging examination of these issues, fulfilled by Signs and Voices: Deaf Culture, Identity, Language, and Arts. This collection, carefully chosen from the 2004 Signs and Voices Conference, the Presidential Forum on American Sign Language at the Modern Language Association Convention, and other sources, addresses all of the factors now changing the cultural landscape for deaf people. To ensure quality and breadth of knowledge, editors Kristin A. Lindgren, Doreen DeLuca, and Donna Jo Napoli selected the work of renowned scholars and performers Shannon Allen, H-Dirksen L. Bauman, Adrian Blue, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Peter Cook, David P. Corina, Michael Davidson, Kristen Harmon, Tom Humphries, Sotaro Kita, Heather Knapp, Robert G. Lee, Irene W. Leigh, Kenny Lerner, Carol Neidle, Peter Novak, AslI Özyürek, David M. Perlmutter, Ann Senghas, and Ronnie Wilbur. Signs and Voices is divided into three sections—Culture and Identity, Language and Literacy, and American Sign Language in the Arts—each of which focuses on a particular set of theoretical and practical concerns. Also, the included DVD presents many of the performances from the Arts section. Taken together, these essays and DVD point to new directions in a broad range of fields, including cognitive science, deaf studies, disability studies, education, linguistics, literary criticism, philosophy, and psychology. This extraordinary showcase of innovative and rigorous cross-disciplinary study will prove invaluable to everyone interested in the current state of the Deaf community.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vii

Contents of the DVD by Chapter Number

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

This volume grew out of the Signs and Voices conference at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr colleges in November 2004. The editors are grateful to the many individuals, departments, and offices at all three colleges that provided financial, logistical, and moral support. Without this support, neither the conference nor the book would have been possible. We owe a special thanks ...

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pp. xiii-xxii

In recent years, the rapid pace of cultural and technological change has necessitated a continual rethinking of what it means to be deaf, hard of hearing, or culturally Deaf.1 A growing number of deaf children receive cochlear implants and are educated in mainstream settings, posing new challenges for defining both individual and collective identities. The development of genetic testing, gene ...

Part One: Culture and Identity

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1. Scientific Explanation and Other Performance Acts in the Reorganization of DEAF

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pp. 3-20

If one was asked to explain who DEAF1 people were in 1968, there were a few dominant choices. There was the “scientific” explanation that focused on the deafness or physical condition of the person. Usually this included a reference to the degree of hearing loss expressed in decibels (Davis and Silverman 1960) and categorized as mild, moderate, severe, or profound loss. Sometimes the explanation ...

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2. Who Am I?: Deaf Identity Issues

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pp. 21-29

“I am deaf.” What a seemingly simple phrase! But in actuality, “I am deaf” is a complex phrase, with various meanings depending on the background and experience of the individual making that statement. The person diagnosed as audiologically deaf from birth, the person who navigates a progressive or late-life hearing loss, and the deaf person growing up in a culturally Deaf family: Each ...

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3. Think–Between: A Deaf Studies Commonplace Book

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pp. 30-42

For some time now, I have been imagining a theory of “betweenity,” especially as it exists in Deaf culture, identity, and language. And because I teach a great deal in the larger umbrella of disability studies these days, I’ve also been thinking about the expansion of that deaf-betweenity to disability more largely. (Of course, I’ve also then been thinking about the way that deafness itself occupies an interesting ...

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4. “I Thought There Would Be More Hellen Keller": History through Deaf Eyes and Narratives of Representation

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pp. 43-62

In the early 1990s, Gallaudet University and the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., planned a joint production, a permanent exhibition called “DEAF: A Community of Signers.” However, as a result of a series of conflicts over the original conception, the focus changed, and the exhibition became a traveling installation called “History ...

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5. Bioethics and the Deaf Community

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pp. 63-74

When the editors of this volume asked me to submit a chapter explaining the importance of bioethics to the deaf community, my first inclination was to refuse this daunting task.1 Bioethics is a discipline with amorphous boundaries; defining the deaf community is similarly challenging. Given the difficulty of carving out a niche in which to situate my discussion, how could I possibly bring together ...

Part Two: Language and Literacy

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6. Cognitive and Neural Representations of Language: Insights from Sign Languages of the Deaf

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pp. 77-89

The past forty years have witnessed remarkable developments in our understanding of the languages used in Deaf communities around the world. Sign languages are complex and naturally emerging communicative systems that display all of the linguistic, cognitive, and biological hallmarks of human spoken language. Their mere existence provides important insights into the remarkable diversity of human language, and their linguistic structure yields invaluable clues as to the ...

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7. Children Creating Core Properties of Language: Evidence from an Emerging Sign Language in Nicaragua

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pp. 90-99

A new sign language has been created by deaf Nicaraguans over the past twenty-five years, providing an opportunity to observe the inception of universal hallmarks of language. We found that in their initial creation of the language, children analyzed complex events into basic elements and sequenced these elements into hierarchically structured expressions according to principles not observed in ...

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8. Well, "What" Is It?: Discovery of a New Particle in ASL

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pp. 100-116

Here we describe a specific sign—which occurs with great frequency in American Sign Language (ASL)—in terms of its articulation, distribution, and meaning. In several articles about ASL, this sign had been noted and variously glossed as WELL or “WHAT” or WELL-WHAT.1 However, the systematicity of its usage across a range of constructions had not been documented prior to Conlin, Hagstrom, and ...

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9. Success with Deaf Children: How to Prevent Educational Failure

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pp. 117-138

The objective of this chapter is to provide research support for the use of natural sign languages in the early education of deaf children, especially when the aim is to develop sophisticated language, literacy, academic, and social skills. To achieve this objective, the reader needs to understand several conceptual and terminological distinctions. The remainder of the chapter addresses the benefits to all deaf ...

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10.English and ASL: Classroom Activities to Shed Some Light on the Use of Two Languages

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pp. 139-149

I came to the field of Deaf education twelve years ago with a background in linguistics and a love for children. Although I immediately became aware of the controversy around language and communication choices for deaf children, it has always been evident to me that American Sign Language (ASL), as a natural visual language, is the ideal choice for a deaf child’s daily communication and ...

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11. A Bilingual Approach to Reading

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pp. 150-159

Learning to read your native language can range from being a simple task to being enormously difficult. A lot depends on the writing system employed by your country, language, or culture. Alphabets, excluding manual alphabets, are systems built on a correspondence between single written symbols and single sound segments. The prototype of an alphabet is a system in which every written symbol ...

Part Three: American Sign Language in the Arts

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12. Body/Text: Sign Language Politics and Spatial Form in Literature

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pp. 163-176

In his Essay on the Origin of Language, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1966) speculates that a society might just as well have developed “by the language of gesture alone.” If this had happened, Rousseau muses, “We would have been able to establish societies little different from those we have. . . . We would have been able to institute laws, to choose leaders, to invent arts, to establish commerce, and to do, ...

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13. Tree Tangled in Tree: Re-Siting Poetry through ASL

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pp. 177-188

At a conference on disability studies, Simi Linton spoke about Casey Martin, the golfer who was denied access to the PGA national golf tour because, as someone with a mobility impairment, he needed to ride in an electric cart. As Linton pointed out, Martin’s disability is not located in the game of golf—which he plays spectacularly—but in the rules by which golf tournaments are conducted. This ...

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14. Nobilor est vulgaris: Dante's Hypothesis and Sign Language Poetry

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pp. 189-213

More than seven hundred years ago, Dante (1305)1 articulated with amazing clarity the concept of “natural language” that many twenty-first-century people still fail to grasp: Vulgarem locutionem appellamus eam quam infantes assuefiunt ab assistentibus cum primitus distinguere voces incipiunt; vel, quod brevius ...

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15. Flying Words: A Conversation between Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner

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pp. 214-219

The Flying Words Project is a two-person act featuring Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner, who collaboratively compose and perform American Sign Language (ASL) poetry. While ASL is their primary medium, Flying Words’ performances also incorporate elements of spoken word, mime, and dance. This interview began with a question from the editors, and the artists simply ran with it in an e-mail ...

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16. Visual Shakespeare: Twelfth Night and the Value of ASL Translation

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pp. 220-231

The translation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night into American Sign Language (ASL) reflects a confluence of cultures, where the nature and process of theatrical translation has been revisited and, to some extent, re-envisioned. This chapter describes and annotates the process of transmuting an oral/aural text into a visual/manual one—of transmuting Shakespeare’s verbal wordplay into a poetry of sight. The ...

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17. ASL in Performance: A Conversation with Adrian Blue

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pp. 232-238

Adrian Blue is a director, translator, storyteller, playwright, and actor. His plays include Deaf Heroes; A Nice Place to Live, written with Catherine Rush; and Circus of Signs, which won the Cleveland Critic’s Circle Award. He has directed and acted in numerous plays produced by the National Theatre of the Deaf, the Wheelock Family Theater in Boston, the Cleveland Sign Stage, and other venues. In addition ...


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pp. 239-241


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pp. 243-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781563684227
E-ISBN-10: 1563684225
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563683633
Print-ISBN-10: 1563683636

Page Count: 268
Illustrations: 2 figures, 21 photos
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- Psychology.
  • American Sign Language.
  • Deaf -- Means of communication -- United States.
  • Deaf -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Identity (Psychology).
  • Deaf culture -- United States.
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