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Deaf Identity and Social Images in Nineteenth-Century France

Anne T. Quartararo

Publication Year: 2008

Since the French Revolution in1789, Deaf French people have struggled to preserve their cultural heritage, to win full civil rights, and to gain access to society through their sign language. Anne T. Quartararo depicts this struggle in her new book Deaf Identity and Social Images in Nineteenth-Century France. In it, she portrays the genesis of the French Deaf community, examines its identity as a minority culture, and analyzes how deaf people developed their cultural heritage, a deaf patrimonie that has been historically connected to the preservation of French sign language. Quartararo begins by describing how Abbé de l’Epée promoted the education of deaf students with sign language, an approach supported by the French revolutionary government, which formally established the Paris Deaf Institute in 1791. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the school’s hearing director, Roch-Ambroise-Auguste Bébian, advocated the use of sign language even while the institute’s physician Dr. Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard worked to discredit signing. In this meticulous study, Quartararo details the many variations in deaf education from 1830 to1930. She describes the banquet movement in the 1830s led by Ferdinand Berthier, Alponse Lenoir, and Claudius Forestier, which celebrated sign language and fostered the deaf association known as the Société Centrale. Quartararo also recounts how hearing educators at the Milan Congress in 1880 universally adopted oralism as the way to defeat deafness, and prohibited sign language in deaf schools. French deaf people refused to submit to this attack upon their cultural heritage, however, and an explosion of social activity among deaf people between 1880 and 1900 created a host of active deaf groups in all corners of the country. Deaf Identity and Social Images paints a unique, rich tapestry of the resilience of French deaf people in defending their culture through the most trying century in their history.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

If writing a book is a kind of solitary journey, it is also true that along the way an author acquires many debts to those people who cared enough to help with research materials and give their moral support. I was indeed very fortunate to have many people who were interested in...

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pp. 1-8

In 2005, the French government officially recognized French Sign Language as “an entirely separate language” in the context of a larger law that gives equal rights to all disabled people in the nation.2 When I began my historical study of the French deaf community in the 1980s, it...

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C H A P T E R 1

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pp. 9-35

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the hearing community formed complex social and cultural images of deaf French people that often tell us more about the concerns of the hearing community rather than what was historically accurate about deaf people. These social...

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C H A P T E R 2

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pp. 36-48

The creation of a deaf community in Paris was apparent before the French Revolution. Abbé de l’Epée’s school in Paris was one point of contact among deaf students who began to interact through the use of natural signs.2 At the same time, according to the deaf tradesman Pierre...

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C H A P T E R 3

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pp. 49-67

During the first decades of the nineteenth century, the education of deaf children in Paris and in the provinces continued to be a great experiment in philanthropy, language acquisition, and moral education. Different educators and public officials held a variety of viewpoints...

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C H A P T E R 4

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pp. 68-98

In 1846, Laurent Clerc, who had once studied at the Paris Deaf Institute and then became one of its remarkable teachers, made a trip to France and England. Clerc was now in his early sixties and had lived in the United States for thirty years. His younger son accompanied him on...

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C H A P T E R 5

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pp. 99-138

In 1834, the deaf teacher Claude-Joseph Richardin proposed his vision for a deaf utopia to both hearing and deaf people. He imagined a town created by the French king, Louis-Philippe, that would be reserved exclusively for deaf people. In this ideal town, no one would speak...

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C H A P T E R 6

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pp. 139-192

During the late 1880s, the French deaf community underwent a dramatic evolution from a predominantly Parisian-focused people committed to preserving the memory of Abbé de l’Epée and providing mutual aid inside the community to a more complex network of deaf associations that captured...

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Epilogue: The Road Ahead

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pp. 193-197

At the turn of the twentieth century, the French deaf community was still attempting to promote group solidarity. In 1903, the many different deaf mutualist associations voluntarily joined together to form the National Union of the Societies of the Deaf (Union nationale des soci


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pp. 198-251

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 252-274


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pp. 275-285

E-ISBN-13: 9781563684234
E-ISBN-10: 1563684233
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563683671
Print-ISBN-10: 1563683679

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 26 photographs
Publication Year: 2008