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Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany
Horst Biesold’s Crying Hands treats a neglected aspect of the Holocaust: the fate of the deaf in Nazi Germany. His book covers a story that has remained almost unknown. In the United States, even in Germany, few are aware that during the Nazi era human beings–men, women, and children–with impaired hearing were sterilized against their will, and even fewer know that many of the deaf were also murdered. --From the Foreword by Henry Friedlander When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933, they wasted no time in implementing their radical policies, first by securing passage of the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. Among those designated by this law as “congenitally disabled” were deaf people. Horst Biesold’s newly translated book examines this neglected aspect of Nazi “racial hygiene” through interviews with more than 1,000 deaf survivors of this brutal law that authorized forced sterilizations, abortions, and eventually murder. Crying Hands meticulously delineates the antecedents of Nazi eugenics, beginning with Social Darwinism (postulated in the mid-nineteenth century) and tracing the various sterilization laws later initiated throughout the world, including many passed and practiced in the United States. This exceptional scholarship is movingly paralleled by the human faces fixed to the numbing statistics, as in story after story those affected recount their irretrievable loss, pain, and misplaced shame imposed upon them by the Nazi regime. Through their stories, told to Biesold in German Sign Language, they have given voice to the countless others who died from the specious science practiced by the Third Reich. And now their own trials finally have been acknowledged.
The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled
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.
The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter
Elizabeth Thompson’s hearing loss was detected when she was in elementary school, and her hearing continued to deteriorate until she became completely deaf. Like many other hard of hearing and late-deafened individuals, her hearing loss complicated the general challenges of life. She struggled through school, worked as a secretary, married, had a daughter, and then found herself living as a single mother. She remarried, and soon after learned that she had contracted Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Despite these hurdles, Thompson always expressed her determination to enjoy the best life had to offer. Her astonishing exuberance might have gone unnoticed if she hadn’t accepted a new position as a reporter/columnist in 1998 for the Suburban News Publications (SNP). Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter presents a marvelous blend of her experiences and best SNP columns that illustrate how she created her remarkable outlook. In her columns, Thompson presented how she handled her hearing loss as a personal guide for readers. She used every stratagem available to function full-throttle – hearing aids, FM systems, lights for alarms, TTYs, even training her dog Snert. She also gently counseled readers on how to treat deaf and hard of hearing people with practical consideration and respect. Her pursuit of a fully realized life enabled her to do what she loved most, to meet and write about inspiring persons, many of whom are profiled in her memoir. Thompson eventually underwent cochlear implantation that restored 95% of her hearing, an exalting moment for her. Yet, Day by Day celebrates the entire arc of her life, a wonderful testament to her joyous resilience.
Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development
In her landmark book Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis, Martha A. Sheridan explored the lifeworlds — the individual and collective elements and realities that are present within the participants’ existential experiences, their relationships, and their truths — of seven deaf and hard of hearing children between the ages of seven and ten. What she discovered were deaf children with strengths, positive experiences, and positive relationships. Sheridan’s new book Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development returns to these seven individuals, now between the ages of 13 and 17, to see how their lives have progressed since their first interviews. Establishing an identity is said to be a primary and necessary task of adolescence. Deaf Adolescents reveals how these young adults all have begun to deal with tasks and situations that lead them to rely more on themselves and others outside of their families. Many of them talk about the athletic challenges that they face, and how their success depends upon their own efforts. They also think about the future while biding their time, taking “a break” from the furious growth that they are experiencing and also enjoying time spent with other deaf friends. In this volume, Sheridan examines the similarities and differences that these deaf young adults reveal in their views at two developmental points in their lives. Her renewed study has advanced the quest to determine what pathways and spaces can foster productive, healthy, satisfying, actualized deaf lives.
Leo Jacobs has written a unique and personal account of what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world. He speaks out on such issues as mainstreaming and its effect on deaf children and the Deaf community, total communication versus oralism, employment opportunities for deaf adults, and public policy toward deaf people. This new edition includes an update of services by and for deaf people, and an expanded chapter on legislation and social issues that have had an impact on the Deaf community in the last ten years.
From Carnival to the Canon
“The moment when a society must contend with a powerful language other than its own is a decisive point in its evolution. This moment is occurring now in American society.” Cynthia Peters explains precisely how American Sign Language (ASL) literature achieved this moment by tracing its past and predicting its future in Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon. Peters connects ASL literature to the literary canon with the archetypal notion of carnival as “the counterculture of the dominated.” Throughout history, carnivals have been opportunities for the “low,” disenfranchised elements of society to displace their “high” counterparts. Citing the Deaf community’s long tradition of “literary nights” and festivals like the Deaf Way, Peters recognizes similar forces at work in the propagation of ASL literature. The agents of this movement, Deaf artists and ASL performers—“Tricksters,” as Peters calls them—jump between the two cultures and languages. Through this process, they create a synthesis of English literary content reinterpreted in sign language, which raises the profile of ASL as a distinct art form in itself. In this trailblazing study, Peters applies her analysis to the craft’s landmark works, including Douglas Bullard’s novel Islay and Ben Bahan’s video-recorded narrative Bird of a Different Feather. Deaf American Literature, the only work of its kind, is its own seminal moment in the emerging discipline of ASL literary criticism.
This collection presents 14 essays by renowned scholars on Deaf people, Deafhood, Deaf histories, and Deaf identity, but from different points of view on the Deaf/Disability compass. Editors Susan Burch and Alison Kafer have divided these works around three themes. The first, Identities and Locations, explores Deaf identity in different contexts. Topics range from a history of activism shaped by the ableism of Deaf elites in the United States from 1880–1920, to a discussion of the roles that economics, location, race, and culture play in the experiences of a Deaf woman from northern Nigeria now living in Washington, D.C. Alliances and Activism showcases activisim organized across differences. Studies include a feminist analysis of how deaf and hearing women working together share responsibility, and an examination of how intra-cultural variations in New York City and Quebec affect deaf-focused HIV/AIDS programs. The third theme, Boundaries and Overlaps, explicitly addresses the relationships between Deaf Studies and Disability Studies. Interviews with scholars from both disciplines help define these relationships. Another contributor calls for hearing/not-deaf people with disabilities to support their Deaf peers in gaining language access to the United Nations. Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives reveals that different questions often lead to contrary conclusions among their authors, who still recognize that they all have a stake in this partnership.
To learn how Chinese parents raise their deaf children, Alison Callaway in 1994 conducted extensive research in the city of Nanjing. There, she interviewed the parents of 26 deaf children while also carefully analyzing a large collection of letters written by other parents to the supervisor of a nursery school that was the center of her research. She also made fact-finding visits to several other schools and programs for deaf preschoolers, and had discussions with teachers, administrators, and staff members. The results of her study form the remarkable body of information presented in Deaf Children in China. Callaway crafted a comprehensive interview with 133 questions, 106 of which were strictly factual while 27 asked parents for their views, attitudes, reactions, and perceptions concerning various issues. Through detailed background analysis, she was able to enhance her interpretations through a balanced assessment of the cultural influences in China, such as the role of the family and the government's “one-child” policy. Although she speaks Chinese and is raising her Chinese son, she consciously monitored with even greater care any potential biases from her own Western antecedents that might affect her research. Deaf Children in China provides a striking profile of the views and attitudes of well-educated Chinese parents with preschool-age deaf children. Callaway's inclusion of a survey of 122 English mothers of deaf children reveals the differences between Western and Chinese parents, who rely upon grandparents to help them and who frequently search for medical cures. Yet, she also discovered that many issues cross cultures and contexts, especially the problems of achieving early diagnosis and intervention for all deaf children, and optimizing early development of language in deaf children of hearing parents. Her pioneering work will fascinate and enlighten readers invested in the development of deaf children for years to come.
Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric
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.
Born in 1938, R. H. Miller was the oldest of four hearing boys with deaf parents in Defiance, Ohio, a small agricultural community. Deaf Hearing Boy is Miller’s compelling account of the complex dynamics at work in his family, including the inter-generational conflicts in which he found himself, the oldest child of deaf adults (CODA), caught in the middle. In 1942, Miller’s family moved to Toledo so that his father could find work. There, they fared well during World War II because his father worked in manufacturing as a member of Roosevelt’s “civilian army.” Miller’s mother loved urban life, where she and the family could immerse themselves in the Toledo Deaf community, especially at the Toledo Silent Club. The end of the war marked the end of prosperity for the Miller family. Returning soldiers displaced all of the deaf workers, who then had to scrape for a living. The Millers, close to destitution, returned to the family farm in Defiance. Miller depicts the return to farm life as one of tremendous hardship, both economically and psychologically. They lived off the land from hand to mouth. He also describes his grandparents’ distrust of his parents because they were deaf, and he writes candidly of his role as an unwilling agent in the misunderstandings between them. Miller also portrays the bias he endured in school and town. Parents of girlfriends would force their daughters to stop dating him for fear that his family’s deafness would be passed down. In the early 1950s, Miller’s grandparents sold the farm and his parents returned to industrial work. Miller excelled at school, and eventually left home for college and life in academia. His later reflections reveal a deep, abiding respect for his parents, despite his early difficulties. Deaf Hearing Boy presents an intimate depiction of a changing time for hearing and deaf Americans alike, when the family farm disappeared and the isolation of Deaf people also began to fade. In witnessing this transformation of society through his family’s life, Miller adds an important chapter to the collective narrative of Deaf people, one made all the more poignant and vivid as told by their Deaf Hearing Boy.