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DEAF IDENTITY Bernard Mottez (Translated by Harry Markowicz and David Armstrong) The concept of deaf identity For several years there has been a lot of discussion of Deaf community, Deaf culture, and Deaf identity. However, although it is now possible to find published material on the community and the culture of deaf people, there has still been nothing published, in France, at least to my knowledge, about deaf identity-as if the notions of Deaf community and Deaf culture needed to be explained, illustrated, and commented on at length, and the notion of deaf identity, being obvious no doubt, need not be explained; as if there was not much that could be said about it. The concept of deaf identity, I have to confess, was not clear to me at first. It even happens to be a problem for me, and I am not alone in this. Not unexpectedly, it raises a problem for all those who, because they prefer to deny the existence of anything that disturbs them, do not want to hear either the Deaf community or Deaf culture mentioned. In this same spirit they do not want to hear deaf identity mentioned. You know that this is not my position. Presently a great deal of emphasis, in particular at "2 L.P.E." (Deuxlanguespour une education), is placed on the need for young deaf people to interact with deaf adults, with whom they can identify. But isn't identity in many respects exactly the inverse of identification? How could all that constitutes the absolute and irreducible singularity of each person be confused with (or be born out of) what could only be called a copy? The concept of deaf identity appears sometimes, in my opinion, as a sort of new avatar of the old "psychology of deafness." One exchanges flat and depressing attempts at an impossible "objective description" of what deaf people are for a normalizing model of "what they should be." Whatever one puts into this model, it hardly helps one understand what it means "to be deaf." But above all, proceeding in this way, one ends up precisely at a point diametrically opposed to where one should be in @1990 by Linstok Press, Inc. See notice inside front cover ISSN 0302-1475 order to understand the sense of freedom for you, Deaf people, in discovering-or reclaiming-what you call your deaf identity: a selfliberation of all that is most peculiar to you, all that is most personal. I have thus felt the need for reflection on these problems in order to understand them more clearly, reflection that was conducted within the framework of my research seminar at the Ecole des Hautes tudes en Sciences Sociales, with the active collaboration of deaf people, some signing, others oral (deaf, deafened, hard of hearing). I would like to share with you my current thinking on this subject, but to make clear the provisional nature of what I am proposing. This, as is customary, consists only of propositions; it is just a first draft. What is identity? Before speaking about deaf identity it is first necessary to discuss identity in general. Who are we, each of us? I like to start from something concrete and something that I understand well. Thus I will begin with myself. (You do the same!) If you allow, I will specify my own identity: My name is Mottez. My first name is Bernard. My father was an engineer. I was born in 1930. I am French. I have blue eyes, hair on my crown has become a bit sparse, my nose is a bit large. I am married and my wife is a foreigner. I am the father of a son and a daughter, both grown up. I am a sociologist. I am Director of Research at the CNRS. I am interested in deafness, and I have in the past few years made it the main object of my research. Those are some traits, characteristics, attributes-call them what you will-that are elements of my identity. All of them are common traits. I share them with a large number of other people. I am tempted to say this: it is the whole...


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