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Reviewed by:
  • Citizenship, Politics, Difference: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Signed Language Communities ed. by Audrey C. Cooper and Khadijat K. Rashid
  • Eyasu Hailu (bio)
Citizenship, Politics, Difference: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Signed Language Communities, edited by Audrey C. Cooper and Khadijat K. Rashid (Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2015, 272 pp., hardbound, $80.00, ISBN 978-1-56368-634-4)

This volume is a collection of diverse contributions on several issues concerning Deaf communities living in sub-Saharan African nations. It comes out of a two-day conference titled "African Lessons on Language and Citizenship: Local Action and Transnational Partnerships," which was held at Gallaudet University in April 2012. This conference was mainly coordinated by the two editors of this volume. The editors were inspired by the positive feedback they received from people asking when they would publish the proceedings and also by those wondering if there would be a "second African languages conference" in the future (xiv). Three years later, the editors took a step to compile this volume, the first of its kind, which is specifically on Deaf communities in African nations.

Including the editors, there are 18 contributors in total, hailing from various professions: law, anthropology, African studies, education, linguistics, deaf studies, entrepreneurship development, social work, history and governance, and international development. They are also comprised of different nationalities across the world. In addition to the editors' introduction, the volume broadly categorizes 13 contributions into three sections: Sub-Saharan Signed Languages and Perspectives; Politics and Difference; and Citizenship. This review presents an outline of each contribution.

The volume begins with the editors' introduction, which includes a general overview of sub-Saharan African Deaf communities and sign languages. The fact that little has been written on this topic necessitates the compilation of this volume. Concepts of citizenship, politics, [End Page 461] and difference are discussed as a framework of the volume, with examples from the rest of the contributors. With regard to citizenship, the editors consider it an important device to examine agents (such as those in government) so as to create ways of being within certain social-historical constructions (xxi). The fact that sign languages are not officially recognized in sub-Saharan African countries is often challenged by political willingness as in the case witnessed by the World Federation of the Deaf (2009). In line with this, questions of equality and difference are not addressed by many African governments, especially in education. Deaf people were not consulted in the areas of medium of instruction and educational policies. In fact, this inequality is directly reflected in employment policies and nations' developmental agendas.

Sam Lutalo-Kiingi and Goedele A. M. De Clerck collaborate to produce an introduction about "Sub-Saharan African Signed Languages and Deaf Communities" for the first section. Under this section there are three topics discussed. The duo presents a summary of each in their introduction.

The first chapter is about "Ethics of Researching Signed Languages: The Case of Kenyan Sign Language" by Julie A. Hochgesang. As a former Peace Corps volunteer and a team member of the KSL dictionary preparation team, the author presents her scientific observations and recommendations on ethical issues that need to be considered while doing research and compiling sign language dictionaries. The driving force to conduct research on the Deaf community or compile sign language dictionaries relies heavily on the direct involvement of members of the local Deaf community from the data collection stage through the approval stage. This article shows that the success of the KSL dictionary project was due to the involvement of the Kenyan Deaf community members. She explains that her contribution to the Kenyan Deaf community in the early 2000s bares a fruit to the extent that the Kenyan parliament recognized KSL constitutionally. Furthermore, the author illustrates that although she knows KSL and the culture of the Deaf community in Kenya, she cannot conduct independent research on KSL grammar as it can be considered unethical to work alone. However, this chapter does not state why people choose to not involve members of the Deaf community in their research. [End Page 462]

Lutalo-Kiingi and De Clerck again collaborate to write on "Deaf Citizenship and Sign Language Diversity...


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