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Deaf Studies Terms

Words and phrases used in Deaf Studies, the Deaf world.

Agency, Deaf Agency (N)

"In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

By contrast, structure are those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and their decisions. The influences from structure and agency are debated—it is unclear to what extent a person's actions are constrained by social systems.

One's agency is one's independent capability or ability to act on one's will. This ability is affected by the cognitive belief structure which one has formed through one's experiences, and the perceptions held by the society and the individual, of the structures and circumstances of the environment one is in and the position they are born into.

Disagreement on the extent of one's agency often causes conflict between parties, e.g. parents and children."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)


"Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.

With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."

BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016

Audism (N)

Audism is the notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.

 (N)Tom L. Humphries coined the term in his doctoral dissertation in 1975, but it did not start to catch on until Harlan Lane used it in his own writings. Humphries originally applied audism to individual attitudes and practices; whereas Lane broadened the term to include oppression of deaf people.

from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audism

Sorenson: Watch the video to learn more about audism and how to prevent it. (ASL, English subtitles)

Critical Disability Studies

Critical Disability Studies focuses on how disability is constructed, viewed, and understood culturally, politically, economically, and socially.

People with disabilities are centered and their experiences in the world create the context for discussion.

Emerging approximately 30 years ago, Critical Disability Studies uses a critical lens similar to fields such as Gender Studies, Chicano Studies, and Queer Studies to interrogate truths and uncover subjugated knowledge.

source: Texas Center for Disability Studies

Cultural Appropriation (N)

Appropriation refers to taking something that doesn't belong to you or your culture. In the case of cultural appropriation, it is an exchange that happens when a dominant group takes or "borrows" something from a minority group that has historically been exploited or oppressed.

In this sense, appropriation involves a lack of understanding of or appreciation for the historical context that influences what is being taken.

source: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cultural-appropriation-5070458

Cultural appropriation of Sign Language

Cultural appropriation of Sign Language could be defined as a situation in which a person or group of hearing people use Sign Language without having full knowledge of it or without fully appreciating it.
 
 
Interview on cultural appropriation of Sign Language in the program See Hear from the British television channel BBC with Paddy Ladd, a prestigious academic and researcher at the University of Bristol, and Jephta Asamoah, winner of the Student of the Year Award in the United Kingdom in 2018 (English subtitles).

Cultural Model of Deafness

"This term focuses on the shared experiences, histories and, more importantly, the central role that sign language has within the Deaf community. It is this key characteristic that differentiates Deaf and “hearing” people. In the Deaf community we see the two separate cultures as the “hearing world” and “Deaf community”.

The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together.

The Deaf Cultural Model rejects the “medical definition of deafness” as either a loss or impairment. This is comparable with the Social Model of disability and Disabled people’s rejection of the Medical Model.  Where the Deaf community sometimes depart from the Social Model is around the term “impairment”. For the majority of culturally Deaf people there is no “impairment nor hearing loss”. What makes the British Sign Language (BSL) Deaf community unique has been its campaign to be recognised as a linguistic minority. For the BSL Deaf community the capital “D” is used in a political sense to demonstrate their campaign for cultural and linguistic recognition.

For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.

One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."

Source: https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/disability-in-london/cultural-model-of-deafness/the-cultural-model-of-deafness/

Deaf - big D, versus deaf - little d

"In the field of Deaf Studies, the use of an upper case ‘D’ in the word ‘Deaf’ denotes membership of a Deaf community and use of an indigenous signed language as a primary or preferred language.

Use of the lower case ‘d’ in the word ‘deaf’ refers to people who have a medically determined hearing loss, but who may not consider themselves to be a member of the Deaf community, and who may not use an indigenous signed language.

A typical example of a ‘deaf’ person is an adult with an acquired hearing loss.

A typical example of a ‘Deaf’ person is a prelingually deaf child who, through use of an indigenous signed language, shared linguistic and cultural values with other signed language users."

from: 

Signed Languages in Education in Europe – a preliminary exploration

 Lorraine LEESON, Centre for Deaf Studies, School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Science. Trinity College Dublin, 2006

Deaf and Dumb

Offensive term. Do not use, see Words to use and avoid.

Deaf Community (N)

"The Deaf Community can refer to a group of people who share the same interests, experiences and language. You do not have to be physically deaf to be part of the Deaf Community. You can be a parent of a deaf child, be a hearing child of deaf parents or you can simply be involved with deaf people.

For someone to be accepted by the Deaf Community, they are usually able to use and understand Irish Sign Language (ISL) and go to Deaf events. The Deaf Community do not see being deaf as ‘a problem’ and demonstrate positive attitudes to being deaf. Members of the community also work for equal access across all aspects of life (Irish Deaf Society’s A Guide for Parents of Deaf Children, 2011)." 

Quoted from: Conama, John Bosco , “Hidden Histories Catalogue,” Deaf Lives Ireland

Source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/omeka-net/4321/archive/files/350961b935e55ead8e2141e6d59cc1e0.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAI3ATG3OSQLO5HGKA&Expires=1605744000&Signature=J0Ipy6Vn%2FNO4fBmecx9xpbIUxq4%3D

Deaf Culture (N)

Deaf culture is the set of social beliefs, behaviors, art, literary traditions, history, values, and shared institutions of communities that are influenced by deafness and which use sign languages as the main means of communication.

When used as a cultural label especially within the culture, the word deaf is often written with a capital D and referred to as "big D Deaf" in speech and sign. When used as a label for the audiological condition, it is written with a lower case d.

From: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/transcoded/f/f7/Deaf_culture_intro.webm/Deaf_culture_intro.webm.480p.vp9.webm

 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture

Deaf Gain (N)

Deafness is often seen as an economic burden to society, but in addition to the well-documented research on visual-processing and visual attentiveness including enhancements in spatial cognition, facial recognition, peripheral processing, and speed in detecting images, deafness can be and is an economic advantage. 

Diversity in cognitive, creative, linguistic and cultural platforms can generate new inventions and new ways of thinking. (Bauman & Murray 2014) 

Deaf Museum? (N)

"Deaf Museum" probably is an old-fashioned name, but I think most people will understand what it means:

a museum about things to do with deaf history, deaf people, deaf education, deaf politics, deaf art, deaf sports, sign language, etc.. So we named our project "Deaf Museums".

A more correct and up-to-date name for a Deaf Museum is what the Museum in Trondheim (NO) now calls itself: Norwegian Museum of Deaf History and Culture

Deaf-mute

Offensive term. Do not use, see Words to use and avoid.

Quotes:

  • "Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.
    With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."
    BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016
  • "Opening ourselves to the Deaf community, listening to and respecting them as co-creators and experts telling the stories they want told, makes our practice richer, and has ongoing positive effects for the community.
    These embryonic relationships hopefully encourage Deaf people to feel welcome in our space — it’s their space too.
    For both side, communities and museum professionals, while genuinely, openly and truly committing to working together can be time-consuming, it repays any investment many-fold."
    Corinne Ball: Expressing ourselves’: creating a Deaf exhibition", 2020
  • "This (Deaf) Museum is not intended as a casual show, to be seen once and forgotten. Its pretensions are nobler; it has a humanitarian aim. By its solid and tangible evidences, making history memorable and attractive by illustration, it serves a double purpose: to dispel ignorance and prejudice regarding the deaf, and to raise the victims of this prejudice and ignorance to their true level in society."
    The British Deaf Monthly, Vol. VI (p.265) 1897. In: Deaf Museums and Archival Centres, 2006
  • “Stories of disability are largely absent from museum displays. Where they appear, they often reflect deeply entrenched, negative attitudes towards physical and mental difference. Research reveals that museums don’t simply reflect attitudes; they are active in shaping conversations about difference.
    Projects created with disabled people show that museums hold enormous potential to shape more progressive, accurate and respectful ways of understanding human diversity. Why wouldn’t we take up this opportunity? ”
    Richard Sandell, co-director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester
  • “If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”
    Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
  • "What has become clear is that museums don’t just function as custodians of the past anymore; instead, they have embraced their responsibility towards the communities of the present: a responsibility to represent them, to speak to them, and to be open to dialogue with them."
    Tim Deakin, August 2021
  • "Nina Simon has described true inclusion in a museum context as occurring when museums value the diversity in their audience, value those individuals’ potential and contributions, when they actively link those diverse people across differences, and when the organisation reaches out with generosity and curiosity at the core.
    On a practical level this sort of museum practice would see widespread inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning of museum exhibitions, on museum boards and steering committees, and working in curatorial roles."
    In: Corinne Ball: Expressing Ourselves, 2020
  • "And yet, even within a large and, in many ways, traditional organization such as this (Trøndelag Folk Museum, Norway), the museum's encounter with Deaf culture contributed to profound changes and a process, still underway, which challenges our own understanding of what a museum is today, our role in society and our obligations towards more diverse audiences than those we had previously engaged or even recognized."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "Inclusion is moving from “we tolerate your presence” to “we WANT you here with us”.
    Jillian Enright in The Social Model of Disability, 2021
  • the past can hurt

    From: Walt Disney, The Lion King

  • "The most significant function of museums is as centres for cultural democracy, where children and adults learn through practical experience that we all have cultural rights. Having the opportunity to create, and to give to others, may be one of our greatest sources of fulfilment. Culture is everywhere and is created by everyone."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Until the fall semester of 1986, the history department at Gallaudet University had never before offered a course in the history of deaf people.
    In the 122 years, to that point, since the founding of the university, which was specifically intended for the education of deaf peoples, no one had ever taught a course about this very group of people.
    In all of those years the history department had offered courses on a wide range of topics but never deaf history. "
    ENNIS, WILLIAM T., et al. “A Conversation: Looking Back on 25 Years of A Place of Their Own.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–41. 
  • "As recently as the 1970s, deaf history did not exist. There were available sketches of various hearing men, primarily teachers, who were credited with bringing knowledge and enlightenment to generations of deaf children, but deaf adults were absent."

    In: Preface to: "Deaf History Unvailed, Interpretations from the New Scholarship". John Vickrey van Cleve, editor
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, 1993
  • "Deaf mute, deaf and dumb, hearing impaired – the choices are many and not without consequences. Words have many meanings, they convey attitudes and prejudices and may hurt, even when used in a well-intended context."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: Museums Change Lives
  • "Access to and participation in culture is a basic human right. Everyone has a right to representation and agency in museums, and communities should have the power to decide how they engage."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Beyond works of art and objects, museums collect shared heritage, memories and living cultures as well as what we call intangible collectables."
    Source: We are Museums
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/museums-change-lives/
  • "After all, we are all of us explorers, and we all have much to bring to each other from our own
    journeyings."
    Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.
  • "Histories have for too long emphasized the controversies over communication methods and the accomplishments of hearing people in the education of deaf students, with inadequate attention paid to those deaf individuals who created communication bridges and distinguished themselves as change agents in their respective field of endeavour."
    from: Harry G. Lang, Bonny Meath-Lang: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, 1995
  • "The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. This is based on the principle that citizens are not just consumers of cultural capital created by others; we have agency and the right to contribute through culture to the wider good of society."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.
    One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."
    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "It was only during the past decade that recognition of the importance of preserving Deaf history has emerged. In the main, Deaf heritage, culture and folklore has been passed down from generation to generation via the medium of sign language and fingerspelling. (..) It is also vital that the history of Deaf people is made available to future generations, especially Deaf schoolchildren as part of their history lessons."
    A. Murray Holmes,  in: Cruel Legacy, an introduction of Deaf people in history, by A.F. Dimmock, 1993
  • "The Finnish Museum of the Deaf) was founded by deaf people, and, thus, its task has been to strengthen their identity and historical communality.

    Most of our materials have a connection to the key experiences that generations of deaf people have shared. These are important in understanding the past and keeping the collective memory alive."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • "An important matter for any minority group is that written documents in public archives are often drawn up by the majority group and do not always reflect a minority as it sees itself. Thus, preserving sign language narration is of the utmost importance and a challenge to those working in the field of Deaf history."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.”
    Chris Cleave in "Little Bee", 2008