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Deaf Americans in School and Factory, 1850-1950
The working lives of Deaf Americans from the mid-1850s to the post-World War II era depended upon strategies created by Deaf community leaders to win and keep jobs through periods of low national employment as well as high. Deaf people typically sought to de-emphasize their identity as sign language users to be better integrated into the workforce. But in his absorbing new book Illusions of Equality, Robert Buchanan shows that events during the next century would thwart these efforts. The residential schools for deaf students established in the 19th century favored a bilingual approach to education that stressed the use of American Sign Language while also recognizing the value of learning English. But the success of this system was disrupted by the rise of oralism, with its commitment to teaching deaf children speech and its ban of sign language. Buchanan depicts the subsequent ramifications in sobering terms: most deaf students left school with limited educations and abilities that qualified them for only marginal jobs. He also describes the insistence of the male hierarchy in the Deaf community on defending the tactics of individual responsibility through the end of World War II, a policy that continually failed to earn job security for Deaf workers. Illusions of Equality is an original, edifying work that will be appreciated by scholars and students for years to come.
Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf World
At last, Ruth Sidranksy’s groundbreaking book In Silence: Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf World is back in print. Her account of growing up as the hearing daughter of deaf Jewish parents in the Bronx and Brooklyn during the 1930s and1940s reveals the challenges deaf people faced during the Depression and afterward. Inside her family’s apartment, Sidransky knew a warm, secure place. She recalls her earliest memories of seeing words fall from her parents’ hands. She remembers her father entertaining the family endlessly with his stories, and her mother’s story of tying a red ribbon to herself and her infant daughter to know when she needed anything in the night. Outside the apartment, the cacophonous hearing world greeted Sidransky’s family with stark stares of curiosity as though they were “freaks.” Always upbeat, her proud father still found it hard to earn a living. When Sidransky started school, she was placed in a class for special needs children until the principal realized that she could hear and speak. Sidransky portrays her family with deep affection and honesty, and her frank account provides a living narrative of the Deaf experience in pre- and post-World War II America. In Silence has become an invaluable chronicle of a special time and place that will affect all who read it for years to come.
Interviews and Analysis
While many researchers focus on the educational development of deaf children, precious little time has been devoted to studying the child’s social development and “self-concept.” Conducting interviews with seven deaf children between the ages of 7 and 10, author Martha Sheridan offers a fresh look at the private thoughts and feelings of deaf children in Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis. “What does it mean to be a child who is deaf or hard of hearing?” Sheridan asks in the beginning of her study. She turns to Danny, Angie, Joe, Alex, Lisa, Mary, and Pat for the answer. The author selected the children based on their unique cultural background and conversed with each child in his or her preferred method of communication. Her procedure remained consistent with each: in addition to standard questions, Sheridan asked each child to draw a picture based on their life and then tell a story about it; next, she showed them pictures clipped from a magazine and asked them to describe what they saw. The results proved to be as varied as they are engaging. Angie, an adopted, profoundly deaf, ten-year-old girl who communicates in Signed English, expressed a desire to attend a hearing college when she grows up, while also stating she hopes her own children will be deaf. Joe, an African-American, ten-year-old, hard-of-hearing boy, drew pictures of deaf people who are teased in public school, reflecting his own difficult experiences. Sheridan draws upon her tenure as a social worker as well as her own experience as a deaf child growing up in a hearing family in analyzing her study's results. “From listening to the voices of these children we learn that they do not always see themselves, their lifeworlds, and their experiences as researchers have traditionally described them,” she writes. “These children have strengths, they have positive experiences, and they enjoy positive relationships.” With evident devotion to her subjects, Sheridan renders Inner Lives of Deaf Children an enlightening read for parents and scholars alike.
The work of interpreters in legal settings, whether they are spoken or signed language interpreters, is filled with enormous complexity and challenges. This engrossing volume presents six, data-based studies from both signed and spoken language interpreter researchers on a diverse range of topics, theoretical underpinnings, and research methodologies. In the first chapter, Ruth Morris analyzes the 1987 trial of Ivan (John) Demjanjuk in Jerusalem, and reveals that what might appear to be ethical breaches often were no more than courtroom dynamics, such as noise and overlapping conversation. Waltraud Kolb and Franz Pöchhacker studied 14 asylum appeals in Austria and found that interpreters frequently aligned themselves with the adjudicators. Bente Jacobsen presents a case study of a Danish-English interpreter whose discourse practices expose her attempts to maintain, mitigate, or enhance face among the participants. In the fourth chapter, Jemina Napier and David Spencer investigate the effectiveness of interpreting in an Australian courtroom to determine if deaf citizens should participate as jurors. Debra Russell analyzed the effectiveness of preparing sign language interpreter teams for trials in Canada and found mixed results. The final chapter presents Zubaidah Ibrahim-Bell’s research on the inadequate legal services in Malaysia due to the fact that only seven sign interpreters are available. Taken together, these studies point to a “coming of age” of the field of legal interpreting as a research discipline, making Interpreting in Legal Settings an invaluable, one-of-a-kind acquisition.
New Perspectives on Language and Deaf Education
Of the more than 400 studies presented at the 18th International Congress on Education of the Deaf, the 20 most incisive papers were selected, rewritten, and edited to construct the trenchant volume Issues Unresolved: New Perspectives on Language and Deaf Education. The resulting book provocatively challenges the invested reader in four critical areas of deaf education worldwide. Part 1, Communication: Signed and Spoken Languages, addresses matters that range from considering critical periods for language acquisition, researched by Susan D. Fischer, to assessing the impact of immigration policies on the ethnic composition of Australia’s deaf community, intriguing work by Jan Branson and Don Miller. Part 2, Communication: Accessibility to Speech, continues the debate with works on the perception of speech by deaf and hard of hearing children, contributed by Arthur Boothroyd, and automatic speech recognition and its applications, delineated by Harry Levitt. Educational issues are brought to the forefront in Part 3 in such engrossing studies as Lea Lurie and Alex Kozulin’s discourse on the application of an instrumental-enrichment cognitive intervention program with deaf immigrant children from Ethiopia. Stephen Powers offers another perspective in this section with his retrospective evaluation of a distance education training course for teachers of the deaf. Part 4, Psychological and Social Adjustment reviews progress in this area, with Anne de Klerk’s exposition on the Rotterdam Deaf Awareness Program, and Corinne J. Lewkowitz and Lynn S. Liben’s research on the development of deaf and hearing children’s sex-role attitudes and self-endorsements. These and the many other contributions by renowned international scholars in the field make Issues Unresolved a compelling new standard for all involved in deaf education.
Vol 3 (2009) through current issue
In 2009 the innovative Journal of Literary Disability is moving to Liverpool University Press under the new title Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. It will continue to focus on the literary representation of disability , but cultural studies will now be added to the multidisciplinary mix. With an editorial board of 50 internationally renowned scholars, the journal is central to the literary disability movement that is changing the face of literary studies on a global scale.
Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli
The Jewish religion owns a virtually uninterrupted record of scripture and commentary dating back to 1,000 B.C.E. (B.C.), portions of which allow the new book Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli to document attitudes toward disabled people in the earliest centuries of this ancient culture. Abrams examines the Tanach, the Hebrew acronym for the Jewish Bible, including passages from the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, and subsequent commentaries up to and through the Bavli, the Talmud of Babylonia written between the 5th and 7th centuries C.E. (A.D.). In Judaism and Disability, the archaic portrayals of mentally ill, mentally retarded, physically affected, deaf, blind, and other disabled people reflect the sharp contrast they presented compared to the unchanging Judaic ideal of the “perfect priest.” All of these sources describe this perfection as embodied in a person who is male, free, unblemished, with da’at (cognition that can be communicated), preferably learned, and a priest. The failure to have da’at stigmatized disabled individuals, who were also compromised by the treatment they received from nondisabled people, who were directing and constraining. As the Judaic ideal transformed from the bodily perfection of the priest in the cult to intellectual prowess in the Diaspora, a parallel change of attitudes toward disabled persons gradually occurred. The reduced emphasis upon physical perfection as a prerequisite for a relationship with God eventually enabled the enfranchisement of some disabled people and other minorities. Scholars, students, and other readers will find the engrossing process disclosed in Judaism and Disability one that they can apply to a variety of other disciplines.
Disability, Housing, and Equity in the South
With America on the brink of the largest number of older adults and persons with disabilities in the country’s history, the deceleration in housing production during the first decade of the twenty-first century, and a continued reliance on conventional housing policies and practices, a perfect storm has emerged in the housing industry. The lack of fit between the existing housing stock and the needs of the U.S. population is growing pronounced. Just as housing needed to be retooled at the end of WWII, the American housing industry is in dire need of change today. The South—with its high rates of poverty, older residents, residents with disabilities, extensive rural areas, and out-of-date housing policies and practices—serves as a “canary in the coal mine” for the impending, nationwide housing crisis. Just Below the Line discusses how reworking the policies and practices of the housing industry in the South can serve as a model for the rest of the nation in meeting the physical and social needs of persons with disabilities and aging boomers. Policy makers, designers, builders, realtors, advocates, and housing consumers will be able to use this book to promote the production of equitable housing nationwide.
In a diverse signing community, it is not unusual to encounter a wide variety of expression in the types of signs used by different people. Perceptions of signing proficiency often vary within the community, however. Conventional wisdom intimates that those who learned at an early age at home or in school know true basic or standard American Sign Language. Those who learned ASL later in life or use contact or coded signs are considered to be less skillful Joseph Christopher Hill shows in Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community various contradictions in the use of signed languages. Hill’s new study explores the linguistic and social factors that govern such stereotypical perceptions of social groups about signing differences. Hill’s analysis focuses on affective, cognitive, and behavioral types of evaluative responses toward particular language varieties, such as ASL, contact signing, and Signed English. His work takes into account the perceptions of these signing types among the social groups of the American Deaf community that vary based on generation, age of acquisition, and race. He also gauges the effects of social information on these perceptions, and their evaluation and descriptions of signing that departs from their respective concept of a signing standard. Language Attitudes concludes that standard ASL’s value will continue to rise and the Deaf/Hearing cultural dichotomy will remain relevant without the occurrence of a dramatic cultural shift.
Why Sign Came Before Speech
In Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech, William C. Stokoe begins his exploration of the origin of human language with a 2400-year-old quote by Democritus: “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” Stokoe capitalizes upon this simple credo in this far-ranging examination of the scholarly topography to support his formula for the development of language in humans: gesture-to-language-to-speech. Intrinsic to this is the proposition that speech is sufficient for language, but not necessary. Chance brought human ancestors down from the trees to the ground, freeing their hands for gesture, and then sign language, a progression that came from the necessity to communicate. Stokoe recounts in Language in Hand how inspiration grew out of his original discovery in the 1950s and ’60s that deaf people who signed were using a true language with constructions that did not derive from spoken English. This erudite, highly engaging investigation calls upon decades of personal experience and published research to refute the recently entrenched principles that humans have a special, innate learning faculty for language and that speech equates with language. Integrating current findings in linguistics, semiotics, and anthropology, Stokoe fashions a closely-reasoned argument that suggests how our human ancestors’ powers of observation and natural hand movements could have evolved into signed morphemes. Stokoe also proposes how the primarily gestural expression of language with vocal support shifted to primarily vocal language with gestural accompaniment. When describing this transition, however, he never loses sight of the significance of humans in the natural world and the role of environmental stimuli in the development of language. Stokoe illustrates this contention with fascinating observations of small, contemporary ethnic groups such as the Assiniboin Nakotas, a Native American group from Montana that intermingle their spoken and signed languages depending upon cultural imperatives. Language in Hand also presents innovative thoughts on classifiers in American Sign Language and their similarity to certain spoken languages, convincing evidence that speech originally copied sign language forms before developing unrelated conventions through usage. Stokoe concludes with a hypothesis on how the acceptance of sign language as the first language of humans could revolutionize the education of infants, both deaf and hearing, who, like early humans, have the full capacity for language without speech.