In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Deaf/Hearing Research Partnerships
  • Ju-Lee A. Wolsey, Kim Misener Dunn, Scott W. Gentzke, Hannah A. Joharchi, M. Diane Clark, and the CSEDL Team

Deaf individuals typically are seen through the lens of the dominant hearing society’s perception, i.e., that being deaf is an impairment. Today, a small but growing number of Deaf and hearing researchers are challenging this perception. The authors examined perceptions of what components are necessary for a successful Deaf/hearing research partnership, and propose that it is essential for Deaf and hearing researchers to embrace a Deaf epistemology. The authors found that a core category of equity is the key to effective teams. This equity is based in part on the mutual understanding that American Sign Language is the lingua franca of the team, as it provides full and easy access between Deaf and hearing team members. Additionally, a transformative paradigm, as a research frame, was found to be necessary to focus on leveling the playing field for Deaf researchers.


Deaf/hearing, partnership, Deaf epistemology, equity, transformative

Intersectionality is an “analytic approach that simultaneously considers the effects of multiple categories of social group membership (e.g., race, class, and gender)” (Cole, 2008, p. 444) to help deconstruct identity and social hierarchies. This concept includes notions of power and privilege, as these notions must be understood if cross-boundary alliances are to be created. This deconstruction of privilege allows one to understand earned versus unearned privilege. Earned privileges focus on an individual’s skills, talents, and hard work: for example, the right to be addressed as “Doctor” after earning a PhD, or money earned from one’s own work. Unearned privileges are conferred, based on “accidents of birth” (Pease, 2010). White privilege, hearing privilege, and male privilege are examples of unearned status that is conferred on the basis of one’s biology.

Unpacking unearned privileges is often difficult because these privileges are unmarked (e.g., White or male), in contrast to marked categories (e.g., Black or female). The concept of marked versus unmarked is discussed by Moore (1976) in his classic book Racism in the English Language. The insidious impact of unearned privileges is that those in the privileged class tend to be unaware of their privilege, a situation that leads to a perpetuation of privilege. To move toward a level playing field, one must be self-reflective, which tends to result in a move toward [End Page 571] social justice. Intersectionality is an attempt to frame these issues and allow them to be openly discussed, with the goal of finding equitable solutions.

In Deaf/hearing alliances, researchers must be aware that their unearned privileges influence how they view the world; this idea is referred to as positionality. Understanding intersectionality provides the basis for a Deaf/hearing research partnership, so that often-overlooked strengths can be optimized, instead of hidden or minimized.

Research Paradigms

Mertens and Wilson (2012) discuss four major paradigms found in research and evaluation: postpositivist, constructivist, pragmatic, and transformative. Each paradigm is associated with traditional methods. Researchers who apply the postpositivist paradigm typically use quantitative designs and statistical analyses of data. The constructivist paradigm typically focuses on qualitative designs, while the pragmatic paradigm typically includes mixed methods (both quantitative and qualitative designs). The pragmatic paradigm leads to the transformative paradigm, which focuses on the viewpoints of marginalized groups and the advancement of social justice and human rights while challenging systemic power structures. This transformative paradigm emerges from the dissatisfaction of marginalized communities about how they have been viewed by the dominant culture (Mertens, 2015). Therefore, critical theories such as Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings, 1998), Queer Theory (Jones & Calafell, 2012), and Disability and Deaf Rights (Harris, Holmes, & Mertens, 2009), among others, have contributed to the transformative paradigm. These critical theories and the transformative paradigm are concerned with issues of power and justice (Mertens, 2015). Therefore, this transformative paradigm offers a metaperspective to challenge systems of unequal power. This paradigm demands an ethical stance of respect and beneficence, as a focus for social justice. Finally, the transformative paradigm assumes that reality is multifaceted and is influenced...