Aug 24

Inside Deaf Culture

Posted by Soliloquy in Adults with disabilities | Hearing Impaired

In this absorbing story of the changing life of a community, the authors of Deaf in America reveal historical events and forces that have shaped the ways that Deaf people define themselves today. Inside Deaf Culture relates Deaf people’s search for a voice of their own, and their proud self-discovery and self-description as a flourishing culture. Padden and Humphries show how the nineteenth-century schools for the deaf, with their denigration of sign language and their insistence on oralis…

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5 Responses

  • Busy Mom says:

    Review by Busy Mom for Inside Deaf Culture
    My dad picked this book up since I just underwent a Cochlear Implant. I was born with some hearing and over the years I started to lose more and more of it. And while I was growing up, there were talk about the Deaf Culture and hearing impairment. I have never been a part of the Deaf Culture. I probably never will be. At my dad’s urging and recommendation, I read this book.

    This book is a compilation of the Deaf Culture history ~~ how sign language came into being, the Deaf Clubs that were so popular till the 1960s, the Deaf Schools, and how they are fighting to perserve their heritage. It is a slim volume packed with interesting facts and observations ~~ I couldn’t put the book down.

    This book is bound to be controversial among cicles ~~ both hearing and in the Deaf Culture. This is the first I’ve heard of the authors too ~~ and I may be interested enough to read their other books to get more of an idea of what their philosophies are and so on. It is very well-written, thought-provoking and interesting. It is disturbing in some parts and in other parts, it leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

    If you are interested in the history of the Deaf Culture, this book is one of the best places to start. It may have the answers you’re looking for or not.


  • M Collier says:

    Review by M Collier for Inside Deaf Culture
    Inside Deaf Culture; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 224 pages

    Inside Deaf Culture is written by two well-known professors of ASL and Deaf Studies. Both authors are Deaf and in the later chapters, discuss their different backgrounds.

    I would recommend this book to anyone studying Deaf Culture, ASL, linguistics, anthropology, social change in America, Deaf people, parents of Deaf children, educators and any one else interested in the history and struggles of minority groups. The book can also be used as a Deaf history reference book for Deaf and hard of hearing students.

    In the book, the authors describe Deaf life in America from the beginning of the country to the present age. In so doing, they poignantly write about the blight of Deaf in America over the years. The book includes some less than glowing reports about the motives of people who were instrumental establishing some of the earliest schools for the Deaf in the county. The authors tell us of abuses of power and scandals that occurred in some of these early schools. The authors describe how historically, people in positions of authority who made decisions for and about what Deaf people could and could not do at school, work and in communities were usually hearing. Even so, early in the history of Deaf in America, schools for the Deaf played an enormous role in bringing Deaf people together.

    The authors also tell us how early United States history, the hearing community practices of segregating Africa Americans was also reflected in early Deaf education and in the Deaf community. The accounts are told with frankness. We learn how Deaf people were often discriminated against as a group. We also learn how this discrimination was even more oppressive for Deaf African-Americans.

    In summary, the book contains an abundance of information the history of the Deaf community in the United States. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the Deaf community.

  • Ivan Rosero says:

    Review by Ivan Rosero for Inside Deaf Culture
    Other reviews here have touched on some of the specific points made in the book, so I would like to share instead my personal reaction to this book. What struck me the most is the tension running through each chapter between community and coercion. The very early history of schools for the deaf in the United States is inseparable from the growing introduction in the early nineteenth century of the expert management of civil society. Like prisons or asylums for the insane, schools for the deaf exercised direct control over student’s bodies, starting from the fact that the institution became the legal guardian of the student. This coercive placement, both physical and social, however, represented for many student’s their first encounter with other deaf people, with whom they would often form life-long friendships. This was, and continues even today to be, such a strong identity forming process, that many students considered these schools the places they “were from”, and not the towns or cities they were born in.

    This is something that I have thought about often since reading this book, for it brings me to questions about the ways in which we negotiate our identity with the people and institutions around us, which can provide us with growth and with pain at the same time. This touched me the most in the moving accounts of both suffering and profound connection that the authors are intimately familiar with.

  • Robert A. Renix says:

    Review by Robert A. Renix for Inside Deaf Culture
    This book offers a good introduction about the African American deaf community that exists as a miniority within a Deaf minority in America. If you are looking for a overview of the Deaf Culture then this is a good foundation book. The only downside about the book is that some of the chapers seem to be a mirror of previous chapters only about a different geographical Deaf community. However, given the limited number of resources about Deaf culture it is definitely worth reading.

  • R. Cody says:

    Review by R. Cody for Inside Deaf Culture
    Inside Deaf Culture examines the history of the deaf community and the emergence of Deaf culture. This history encompasses the institutionalization of deaf children in special schools, the Deaf clubs that provided a space for advocacy and socializing, the Deaf performances that acknowledged and encouraged the creativity through sign, and the debates within and out of the Deaf community about Deaf culture and the legitimacy of American Sign Language.

    Throughout the book, Padden and Humphries trace and examine the separation and control of Deaf people. They use interviews, personal memories, and historical documents to give a variety of perspectives on what the institutionalization of the Deaf into special schools has meant for the Deaf community. They explore how even the earliest separations of children – by gender, race, and teaching method – impacted the community as the children grew up. These issues are brought into the present as Padden & Humphries discuss cochlear implants.

    Padden and Humphries also discuss the internal and external struggle to recognize Deaf culture. Having experienced the struggles themselves, the authors fully recognize that the legitimization of Deaf culture and American Sign Language did not come easily. They do an excellent job of how Deaf culture allowed the Deaf community a “thread of connection to the past” (161) while also recognizing that Deaf culture and ASL was not always greeted positively or without suspicions, even within the Deaf community.

    The book is easy to read and provides a fascinating look into the struggles of Deaf culture, past and present.

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