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HEAR ME SIGN: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE DEAF CULTURE OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA BY JESSICA PLOSS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under to sponsorship of Maria D. Vesperi Sarasota, Florida January, 2013
! Dedication This thesis is dedicated to my mom, Marguerite Ploss. My mother has never wavered in encouraging me and helping me to keep moving forward in my life. Through everything we have gone through she has never given up, and she has taught me more about perseverance and kindness than anyone else I have ever met. I am eternally grateful to be her daughter and hope to continu e to make her proud. Thank you M om f or everything you have ever done for me and continue to do. I love you.
! # Acknowledgments "I can cut down, but I can't cut out. I am hoping to make a world where nice isn't weird anymore" James Phillip Sheridan This project would have been impossible if not for the help of numerous people along the way. I would like to thank the professors of the New College Anthropology Program : Maria D. Vesperi, Uzi Baram, Erin De an, Tony Andrews, and Gaby Vail, with special th anks to my academic advisor and thesis sponsor, Maria Vesperi, for guiding me and helping me through this process. I would also like to thank my first professor of American Sign Language (ASL) from Gallaudet University, Ricky Rose, and my second professor of ASL at USF, Dr. Myra McPherson. This thesis would not have been possible if not for the support I received from members of Sarasota, Florida's Deaf community. If not for the people I met while attending Deaf events, I would not have been able to write this thesis with any level of confidence M embers of the Deaf community were willing to give me a chance, help me to improve in my ASL, and take s ome time to answer my questions. I would also like to thank them for allowing me to participate in their events and to become a part of their community. It is impossible for me to describe the joy I experienced in learning to sign and meeting people at the se events and I am truly grateful for it. Thank you to all of my friends who have become my family at New College in the past few years; there are too many of you to name, so please know who you are. Even though we will end up traveling to different plac es we will always stay connected. I know I will miss someone, but to name a few: Stephanie Larumbe, Rachel Robinson, Bri Gordon, Charlotte Gray, Holly McArthur, James Sheridan, Claire Miller, Gail Fish,
! $ Kortney Lapeyrolerie, and everyone else who taught me more about kindness than I ever thought I would be able to learn. Thank you to my ASL students, Mark Wilco and Leah McMacken, for letting me teach you about ASL and Deaf culture as I was still learning it myself, and for being understanding when I made mi stakes along the way. It is difficult to put oneself into a vulnerable situation such as joining the Deaf community while still learning ASL. Mark Wilco has been included throughout almost the entire time I have been involved in the Deaf community, and was always there to tell me to take a breath, or to practice signing, and joke about mistakes made while learning new signs. This project would not have been as enjoyable had I not had someone from the Hearing world with whom to share these experiences T hank you. To my USAGF family, thank you for teaching me about camaraderie, leadership, compassion, and the indescribable joy and tranquility found in being able to defend myself both mentally and physically. Oos.
! % Table of Contents: Dedication 2 Acknowledgements 3 Table of Contents 5 List of Illustrations 7 Abstract 8 Introduction 9 Chapter One: Literature Review 11 Chapter Two: Methodology 42 2.1 Language 42 2.2 Culture 44 2.3 Ethno graphic Concepts/Factors 48 Chapter Three: Fieldwork 60 3.1 Introduction 60 3.2 Explanation of the difference between English 63 and American Sign Language 3.3 Gallau det University Immersion 66 3. 4 Bri nging ASL to New College 68 3.5 ASL Class at U SF Sarasota Manatee Campus 70 3 .6 Sarasota Deaf Events 79 3 .7 Deaf Awareness Expo 87
! & Conclusion 96 Works Cited 101
! List of Illustrations Figure Page 1. Site Map of Primo's Ristorante 48 2. That Deaf Guy Comic 59
! ( ABSTRACT HEAR ME SIGN: AN ETHONGRAPHY OF THE DEAF CULTURE OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA Jessica Ploss New College of Florida, 2013 My thesis focuses on understanding why people who identify as either hearing or deaf become members of Deaf culture. This cultural group includes those who were born deaf, were late deafened, and those who still have the ability to hear; peo ple with all levels of hearing or deafness are able to join the Deaf community if they learn to use American Sign Language (ASL). In Sarasota, Florida I found that the Deaf community will welcome anyone who is able to use ASL. Through participant observat ion and interviews with members of the Sarasota Deaf community, my research examine s the self identifying factors among people who decide to join the Deaf community versus people who remain solely within the Hearing culture. _______________________ Maria D. Vesperi Division of Social Sciences
! ) Introduction "You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul" Gusteau (Ratatouille) This thesis addresses one anthropology student's questions about Deaf culture, and analyzes what she found by looking into the Sarasota, Florida 1 Deaf community. Throughout this journey, from the first time I spoke with one of my professors about it through my final fieldwork interview, it has been a continual com fort to know when I was wrong because it led me to the next step in this journey. In the early stages of my research, I thought the only difference between the Deaf and Hearing 2 was that the Deaf used ASL to communicate. As I became more educated on the su bject, I learned about the struggles the Deaf had faced in developing their position as a cultural minority, and the battles faced in working to lessen the language barrier between the Hearing and Deaf. As time progressed, and I gained fieldwork experience and read works by authors both within and beyond anthropology, it started to become clear to me that Deaf culture is incredibly complex and I could only hope to gain a limited understanding of the subject in the time I had to complete my project. This t hesis presents the Deaf community from the perspective of a Hearing woman, who still has much to learn. Reading this ethnography will present a story of learning ASL after 21 years of communicating only verbally, and the initial exhaustion experienced by o ne's eyes and hands by signing with people all day. Few have the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Place names and the names of businesses, organizations, and public speakers or original. Names of individuals have been changed to protect confidentiality unless otherwise indicated. 2 "Deaf" refers to the cultural group known as Deaf culture; "deaf" refers to a medical or biological inability to hear. Hearing" refers to observing a cultural group the Hearing culture; "hearing" refers to the physical ability to hear.
! *+ experience of stepping into another culture without leaving one's home city, but stepping into a Deaf event can be a five minute drive away from home, where one can find a cultural minority g roup and be immersed in its community for a fe w hours. This thesis has been an 18 month journey in order to find some answers. During the final two weeks of June 2011, I was at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. learning American Sign Language (ASL) a nd absorbing all that I could while in this center of Deaf culture. In the Spring term of 2012, I enrolled in an introductory ASL course at USF Sarasota in order to improve my signing. My fieldwork in Sarasota, FL began in March 2012 and concluded in Sept ember 2012. When I thought back to the beginning, I realized that I had assumed I would finish my work with clear cut answers. Instead, I will present my experiences as I wrestled with understanding Deaf culture and ASL, and how I eventually came to an und erstanding of Deaf culture while still living as a Hearing person. Hear Me Sign will take the reader into a US Deaf community and show that members of the Hearing community can find a place in it when they are willing to learn ASL and have open minds t hey cannot keep any assumptions about Deaf culture operating the same as the Hearing culture does. With the help of authors such as Harlan Lane and Carol Padden, I will examine the history of Deaf culture, and by applying works by anthropologists including Gaylene Becker, Ruth Behar, Pierre Bourdieu, and Clifford Geertz, I will place my understanding of Deaf culture within the teachings of anthropology. I hope my work will provide an understanding of the journey a Hearing woman has taken to find a place in Deaf culture.
! ** Chapter One : Literature Review "The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame" Oscar Wilde When the Min d Hears by Harlan Lane (1998) begins with Laurent Clerc's first hand perspective and his li fe story beginning with his upbringing and education in Paris at the Institution for Deaf Mutes run by the Abbe Sicard. Clerc documents many events in his life, concluding with his journey to America with Thomas Gallaudet in order to teach the American de af to sign. Clerc experienced and witnessed Deaf history as it was being recorded. The original founder of the Institute for Deaf Mutes, the Abbe l'Epee, is credited with bringing sign language to the forefront in French society and giving the French deaf a voice. "Still it was the abbe de l'Epee, son of the king's architect, who first turned to the poor, despised, illiterate deaf and said, Teach me.' And this act of humility gained him everlasting glory" (Lane 1988:63). In this Institute, deaf students w ere taught in their own language, sign language, in order to be taught French. Many people throughout the history of the various battles over how to educate the deaf have argued that signing is not a reputable language because it is seen as primitive, and have used this as their argument in favor of oralism. One prominent example was Alexander Graham Bell, who advocated that students be taught to speak and lip read rather than learning to sign. However, sign language has a vocabulary and grammatical system; those against it are not aware or just cannot accept that a language using the hands and face to communicate is as developed as a verbal language. Those against sign language also use word for word translations of signed sentences to show its lack of "dev elopment," ignoring that languages use many different word orders that will also sound awkward if
! *" they are examined only as word for word translations. Many ignore that the meaning assigned to each sign is arbitrary, just as the meaning assigned to each wo rd in a spoken language is also arbitrary. An aspect of Clerc's story that I reacted to most strongly was the belief among many in the hearing population that deaf populations were inferior, no matter what advances they made in communication. While Clerc was still a student at the Institute, there was a physician who conducted numerous medical experiments on the deaf students in an attempt to "cure" them of their deafness. These proposed pharmacological "cures" mostly resulted in students suffering terrib le side effects such as rashes and headaches. The eugenics 1 movement of the 19 th and 20 th centuries granted increased power to the oralist view that the deaf should put their efforts into assimilating into hearing society rather than making their "deformities" obvious by using sign language. Many hearing people involved in advocacy movements for the deaf were at the same time against deaf marria ges, holding the opinion that deaf couples would have deaf children who would then be crippled by their own deafness and create more division in society. This viewpoint relates to the principles of the eugenics movement and its hopes of wiping out "inferio r" qualities. When Clerc told Gallaudet of his marriage to a deaf woman, Gallaudet was opposed to the union for fear that the couple would bring deaf children into the world. In support of eugenics, Alexander Graham Bell reportedly used his influence to ha ve the US Census gather information on the deaf living throughout the United States and use the information to try to have residential schools for the deaf shut !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Eugenics is the belief that qualities of humans can be improved while suppressing undesirable qualities that have been seen as genetic defects, and encouraging the reproduction of desirable traits
! *# down, arguing that deaf students should take classes with hearing children instead (Lane 1988:3 56). Bell's work aided the eugenics efforts to "purify" humanity; with respect to the deaf population the eugenicist's aim was to force the deaf into assimilating with the hearing. Even though Thomas Gallaudet supported sign language being used as the lang uage of the deaf, he was more in favor of it for those who are already deaf and in need of a way to communicate than as a gateway to freedom for future deaf generations. In addition, Gallaudet and others who were in favor of sign language saw it primarily as a way for the deaf to understand the Lord's Pr ayer and the Christian religion, not as a primary means of communication. Kaleidoscope of Deaf America (Olson, Turk, Miller, eds. 1989) provides contributions by numerous authors who give their perspectives on Deaf life within Hearing America. Chief among the anthology's recurrent themes is that the deaf should not be limited by the inability to hear. No matter the career field, the Deaf community has worked hard in order to carve out their own representatio n equal to that in the hearing world (Olson, Turk, Miller 1989). An excellent example of a Deaf American who fought her way to the top is Ann Billington Bahl, who was the first Deaf Miss America (Wood and Holcomb 1989:21). This book provides indicators of the presence of the Deaf community throughout the United States that the hearing world might not realize are there. For example, the hand signals used in baseball came about because of William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy; the signals were created by Umpire Bill Klem, a superstar in Major League Baseball who was deaf. In another sports example, Paul Hubbard, who realized that players on the opposing team could read his sign language from across the field, created the football huddle at Gallaudet University (Smith 2008:87).
! *$ The other main theme of this collection concerns issues of the Hearing world faced also by the Deaf community (Olson, Turk, Miller 1989). A great deal has been written about the Deaf community's fight to find its place within the Hearing world. However, there has not been much attention to how the Deaf experience also includes issues such as racism. The paradox is that such problems surface when the Deaf are making their way within the Hearing world, but while they remain within their Deaf commun ity the main issues of diversity at hand are normally about language (i.e., whether a person uses ASL or is oral) and how each Deaf individual chooses to become a part of his or her local community of hearing and deaf (Lopez 1989:12). It is often overlooke d that members of the Deaf community would have also participated in historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement, right along with the Hearing community (Dunn 1989:22). Set up as a public forum, For Hearing People Only (Moore and Levitan 1993) of fered the opportunity for members of the hearing world to ask any and all of their questions about the Deaf world, including some that may be perceived as insensitive. In order to cover everything people might be thinking when they first find out about Dea f culture, the authors seem to have purposefully chosen questions that range from the commonly asked: What is Deaf culture? to questions that seem to almost be a joke: Is Deafness bad karma? It is not the auth or' s knowledge that is most prominent in th is work, but the questions people were willing to ask and what those questions implied. Reading this book, I began to wonder whether the people who posed questions viewed the Deaf as disabled, or as a cultural group. My conclusion was that people viewed th e
! *% Deaf as both, hopefully because questioners were previously uninformed about the existence of Deaf culture and were seeking to learn about the subject. For Hearing People O nly addresses a common initial surprise for those learning ASL and one that I ha ve been asked several times as well : in there is a signed language for numerous spoken languages, corresponding with each community's Hearing culture. The sign language used in the US is one of the more standardized versions and allows more signers to be a ble to communicate even if they learned to sign in different parts of the country. In Europe it becomes slightly more difficult because of the high variation of signed languages found there. "In Europe, even within a single country, there can be tremendous variation from city to city, while American Sign Language, although possessing many regional dialects and accents,' is standardized enough to be easily understood by ASL users (an estimated 500,000) from coast to coast" (1993:39). From an anthropologica l perspective, even though Deaf culture around the world unites in many things, it makes sense that there are "subgroups" within different countries where Deaf communities developed initially isolated and their sign language became unique to that community Reading For Hearing People Only required more patience and acceptance when I reached submissions such as, "Why do Deaf people have such a problem with understanding English?" and "Why can't all Deaf people read lips?" These questions are reminders of h ow little thought some choose to put into their observations of different groups they encounter in their everyday lives. Contrary to what some might assume, these questions do not necessarily have to mean the person asking has placed the Deaf
! *& under a label of "disabled"; rude questions such as "Why can't that person speak English?" have been asked of many other cultural groups. When a person is initially learning about Deaf culture, she might believe that everyone within it holds the same beliefs about ho w to communicate. Communication Issues Among the Deaf (Garretson 1990) explains that the truth is very different. The choice of communication becomes a source of controversy within Deaf society because sign language is such a large source of pride for many people within Deaf culture; it is their proof that they are a distinct group and are just as capable of succeeding in the world as the Hearing population can. As a result of sign language being such a source of pride, when Deaf individuals who do not sign and speak instead, come into the Deaf community they are often met with hostility because it is assumed that they do not have pride in their deafness and instead feel ashamed that they are not full members of the Hearing world (Garretson 1990). Methods of communications within Deaf culture usually fall into three categories. Sign language gives a sense of pride in unity to the Deaf community. Looking into Deaf history, it can be seen that the Deaf were looked down upon and subjugated as an inferior grou p by the Hearing population because they could not speak; the creation and standardization of American Sign Language gave American Deaf culture strength to combat these prejudices. Oralism has often been a popular resouce for hearing parents when they give birth to deaf children. Often these parents are uneducated about Deaf culture or do not want their children to be seen as different or disabled, so they send them to speech therapy for lip reading to facilitate assimilation into the Hearing world. Another commonality with these children is they are usually born in places that do not have an
! *' established Deaf community and are often among the few deaf children in their town. Total communication entails teaching a deaf child how to sign and how to speak. This method can receive positive and negative feedback. From the positive perspective, total communication gives a deaf child the best of both worlds she can sign as well as speak so she is able to form relationships with everybody. However, some view total communication from a negative perspective and see the deaf child as being ashamed of her deafness. It should be noted that being brought up in total communication does not mean the deaf child is able to switch from signing to speaking as she wishes; she st ill has to sign and have people sign to her for her to understand what is going on, but by speaking she does not make hearing people around her uncomfortable (Garretson 1990). Cultural groups can be identified by a variety of characteristics such as lang uage, ethnicity, and geographic location. However, members of Deaf culture are identified by their ability to sign. American Deaf culture is comprised of various ethnicities and members are found in all corners of the country. Sometimes they are isolated f rom the rest of Deaf culture and unaware of its existence, and sometimes they live in a large community isolating itself from the Hearing world. In Deaf in America Carol Paden (1988), describes how some do not think that a member of the Hearing world woul d also learn how to sign, so some children will assume that if they see someone signing he must be deaf. Paden provides an example of one child, Vicky, who does not view another child, Michael, as being deaf b ecause he spoke to her verbally rather than using ASL: "What apparently has impressed Vicki about Michael is that he uses signs. To her, hearing people do not use signed language and therefore lack ways to make themselves understood. To her, Michael's ability to converse with her in her language is sufficient
! *( evidence that he is not Deaf" (Paden 1988:13). In other cases, members of Deaf society may not grow up knowing that they are "Deaf." If the child grows up in a family that is entirely Deaf and they do not call themselves "Deaf" (muc h like families who are hearing may never think about their ability to hear) then why would the Deaf child count herself as "Deaf"? Even though Deaf children may not identify themselves as "Deaf" the distinction is made clear when they begin their educa tion. Education of the Deaf in America has been somewhat haphazard. As I have noted, Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc began Deaf education in the United States. A convention about Deaf education in Milan, Italy in 1800 set off the wave of oralism educati on that battled with education in sign language for the next 200 years. As established in my discussion of Lane (1998), before coming to the US with Gallaudet, Laurent Clerc was educated in France with the system developed by the Abbe l'Eppe. The Abbe's id ea for how he would educate the Deaf children of France was ingenious: he recognized that in order for him to teach the Deaf to understand French he would have to learn their sign language first. By taking that step he was able to understand how his studen ts thought and knew how to teach them his language. "Epee did not invent' their signed language no individual, however gifted, can invent a human language. Instead, Epee speculated that the gestural mode of communication his students were already using before they came to his school might be an ideal channel for teaching them the French language" (Paden 1988:28). In A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America, John Vickrey Van Cleve and Barry Crouch (1990) trace a brief path from sign language's start in France through its journey in America as Deaf communities developed. Mention of the
! *) treatment of the deaf stretches back into the Old Testament of the Bible, and Van Cleve and Crouch suggest that the Bible took a more accepting view of the deaf than hearing people have taken in recent times. "The Old Testament's emphasis on respect for persons with disabilities continues in Leviticus. There, in chapter 19, verse 14, the Lord states various laws to Moses. Among them is the following: Tho u shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock befo re the blind, but shalt fear th y God: I am the LORD'" (1990:2). Granted, using "disabled" would not be a desirable term for the Deaf today, but the sentiment is clear: do not put the deaf beneath tho se who can hear. Aside from the link between sign language and religion, the other element of A Place of Their Own that appeared most prominent was the important need of the deaf to be around other deaf people so that they could learn their Deaf history. Van Cleve and Crouch point out that even with all of the turmoil that has occurred, residential schools for the Deaf create a community for its students that is not found in many other places, and this includes teaching about Deaf history. The need for so cialization is mostly filled by residential schools and social clubs. Often when a Deaf child is sent to a residential school for the Deaf she returns after completing her education in order to find a job that will also place her with people who can unders tand her both linguistically and culturally. Van Cleve and Crouch provide the example of Thomas and David Tillinghast, who attended a residential school for the deaf and returned afterwards. "That Thomas and David Tillinghast graduated from state residenti al schools for deaf students and then returned to them for employment is not surprising. They were evidently precocious students, and like other deaf people who attended residential schools, they returned to them to find companionship, jobs appropriate to their level of education, and a culture
! "+ based on the common language of signs" (1990:58). Social clubs for the Deaf in America are also a striking part of Deaf history in the US. "The ubiquitousness of American deaf organizations is striking, but of more significance because of its uniqueness is the fact that these have been groups of rather than for deaf people. In the United States deaf people created their own associations, funded them, and controlled them" (1990:87). These social clubs serve as a r eminder for the hearing population who exert influence over the affairs of the Deaf that Deaf people are their equals socially and in intelligence and cannot be subjugate d any longer. Harlan Lane's The Mask of Benevolence illuminates how Deaf culture has been subjugated by the Hearing world, as well as showing how those efforts have failed and Deaf culture has thrived instead. In the introduction, Lane acknowledges his limited understanding of Deaf culture as a hearing person: "I recognize that my pursuit of knowledge about deaf people, however intense and prolonged, will never give me the knowledge of a deaf person" (Lane 1993:xiv). Far too often decisions for a minority group are made by people outside the group and the consequences have been faced by th e minority group in this case Deaf culture. In the history of the US, people who are deaf have been viewed as being mentally lacking and as a result it became an automatic response to speak of being deaf in this manner instead of realizing that it is a choice to view being deaf as a weakness. As Lane notes, "We have come to look at deaf people in a certain way, to use a certain vocabulary of infirmity, and this practice is so widespread among hearing people, has gone on for so long, and is so legitimized by the medical and paramedical professions that we imagine we are accurately describing attributes of deaf people rather than choosing to talk about them in a certain way" (1993:22).
! "* One key example of how the Hearing have attempted to extend their contro l over the Deaf is in organizing education for deaf children. According to Lane, there are certain elements of an educational program that would make it truly beneficial to deaf children and give them an advantage in the hearing world. Some of the more pro minent elements are consolidated below: The linguistic goal is bilingualism and not dominance of the minority language or the majority language. This is not true of current education for ASL using children, where only English is taught and used Teachers a re bilingual and well trained This is not true in programs for ASL using children. "Especially with small children," Skutnabb Kangas writes, "it is close to criminal psychological torture to use monolingual teachers who do not understand what the child ha s to say in its mother tongue." The students have high internal motivation; they are not forced to use the majority language. This is not true for ASL using children, who are generally obliged to use only the majority language The students' linguistic deve lopment in their primary language is promoted They learn language registers, art forms, reading and writing, etc., in their primary language. This is not true for ASL using children There is enough relevant, cognitively demanding subject matter provided t o promote common underlying proficiency for all languages This is not true for ASL using children. (1993:174 175) These elements are numerous, but necessary for deaf children to be as successful as possible while among the hearing. According to Lane, th e aim instead has been to find a way to remove the need to recognize deafness so that they can be assimilated in the hearing world. "Hearing people are the majority group. It's a hearing world,' they say, meaning, deaf people should conform to our ways" ( 1993:80). One problem has been the refusal to recognize the Deaf community as a minority cultural group; instead this group, against its will, has been viewed as a disabled popu lation that needs to be "fixed." Little do the would be repair people know, tho se repair are unnecessary. As I understand it, Deaf culture has to function within the Hearing world, and because of this the D eaf should learn to lip read so they are able to work with H earing people, but this does not
! "" mean that the Deaf should not pay re spect to their own language and take pride in having it and being able to use ASL with as much grace and beauty as someone who takes pride in speaking English. Harlan Lane has written a great deal on the subject of Deaf culture and in, A Journey into the Deaf World (1996) h e and two co authors, Robert Hoffmeister and Ben Bahar, provide a detailed account of life in Deaf America Examples include being in the middle of Deaf culture (as a Deaf person), being on the outside trying to understand it (as a Hear ing person), and finally when Deaf and Hearing collide. Finding a place within Deaf culture as a Hearing person can be a challenge simply because there is not an automatic reason to accept that person. "Sometimes hearing people who are genuinely intereste d in the Deaf World and desire to participate in it feel that they are not accepted. In the same way, for example, American expatriates might fell they are not totally accepted in France" (1996:6). Lane has pointed out that understanding Deaf culture is si milar to understanding any culture that is different from one's own. Joining Deaf culture is not a desire to be recognized as disabled, far from it; hearing people who want to find a place in Deaf culture can have an honest interest. There are Hearing peop le who do not aim to blend the Deaf population with the Hearing; they can respect that this minority culture has a right to exist. For some in the Hearing wor ld, taking a closer look at how Deaf culture has been oppressed may seem like a silly idea. This incredulity stems from the refusal to see the Deaf community as its own cultural minority group, but rather as people who suffer a disability. Yet Lane, Hoffmeister, and Behar point to several characteristics that identify the Deaf as members of a cultura l minority. "First, its members share a common physical
! "# characteristic: their primary source of information is vision. This is of the greatest importance as a solidifying force, for as long as human variation engenders visual people, there will be a consti tutional basis for affiliation and there will be a manual visual language. Put in other words: The Deaf World is the one minority that can never be totally assimilated or eradicated" (1996:159). By communicating most effectively with a manual language, Dea f culture is able to withstand all efforts by the oralists and other assimilationists to fully bring the Deaf into the Hearing world. T heir culture is handed down through this manual language and as long as sign language persists, Deaf culture's adversarie s will never be able to erase this minority group. George Marcus's explication of multi site ethnography provided inspiration for my thesis research. In Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi Sited Ethnography Marcus provides a detaile d look at the emerging amount of work conducted in several locations instead of in one place. My field research on Sarasota's Deaf culture became multi sited although on a very small scale because it involved more than one language and I would have to foll ow the people to more than one location in order to spend enough t ime observing them in the field. T here are plenty of Deaf events throughout Sarasota, but these take place in different locations instead of just one. "This mode defines for itself an object of study that cannot be accounted for ethnographically by remaining focused on a single site of intensive investigationThis mobile ethnography takes unexpected trajectori es in tracing a cultural formation across and within multiple sties of activity that destabilize the distinction, for example, between lifeworld and system, by which much ethnography has been conceived" (1995:49,96). Ethnographers using this method often f ind it themselves following a language or a group
! "$ of people instead of solely focusing on the location. "Strategies are quite literally following connections, associations, and putative relationships are thus at the very heart of designing multi sited ethn ographic research" (1995:97). When conducted a multi site ethnography, one problem the researcher must pay special attention to will be ensuring that the essence of the culture being studied is not lost in the details of the various sites. "The point is t hat in such research a certain valorized conception of fieldwork and what it offers wherever it is conducted threatens to be qualified, displaced, or decentered in the conduct of multi sited ethnography. Still, what is not lost but remains essential to mul ti sited research is the function of translation from one cultural idiom or language to another" (1995:100). Ethnographers are trained in being detail rich with as many of their observations as possible in order to provide readers with as clear as possible an image of the group studied, but these details must remain balanced so that the ethnographer's main point does not become drowned out. The other key factor in conducting a multi site ethnography is language. In my own ethnographic research the main exp eriences being shown are the interactions among people as they utilize ASL. Marcus points out ethnographers will need to become multi lingual in order to expand multi site ethnographic research. "Just as knowing the language' guarantees the integrity of t raditional fieldwork and gives the bounded field e.g. a people, an ethnic group, a community its most important coherence as a culture, this skill is as important in multi sited fieldwork and with even more exactitudeYet, if such ethnography is to flo urish in arenas that anthropology has defined as emblematic interests, it will soon have to become as multilingual as it is multi sited" (Marcus
! "% 1995:101). With any ethnography, no matter the country or culture, it is important to be educated in the langua ge in order to understand the culture being studied. In Signs of Their Times: Deaf Communities and the Culture of Language Rich ard Senghas and Leila Monaghan, take a thorough look at several aspects of Deaf culture. I will highlight the components of their article that I found to be the most informative. First is the social construction of Deafness: "Deafness is, at least in part, a social construction. Understanding the complex nature of communities with deaf members requires attend ing to how people use and think about language. In other words, we need to understand more about the culture of language" (2002:70). Conducting my field research would have been nearly impossible without gaining an understanding of ASL before entering the Deaf community. In addition to understanding that Deafness is culturally created, Senghas and Monaghan state that two models of Deafness must also be understood: the medical and the cultural. The medical model of deafness is one based on deficit theory a nd holds that deafness is the pathological absence of hearing and that such a hearing impaired individual is therefore disabled because of faulty hearingIn contrast to the medical model, a cultural or sociocultural model of d/Deafness has emerged and has been widely adopted in one form or anotherIn this view, deafness is identified as one range within the larger spectrum of human variations, and this view assumes that deafness allows for an alternate constellation of very human adaptations, among the most central being sign languages. (2002:78) Many times throughout the course of Deaf history, hearing people have seen the Deaf under the medical model rather than accepting Deafness as a cultural category, probably because this would mean having to accept t he Deaf as equals. Either way, seeing these two categories does clearly point out how people who identify as Deaf would view themselves versus how they would be identified by the Hearing society.
! "& The role language plays in an ethnography is pivotal, and u nderstanding the culture's language contributes to the difference between a well written eth nography versus one that lacks clear understanding. Senghas and Monaghan note, "Just as Boas (1911) and Malinowski (1984 ) recognized that ethnographers need at least some command of the languages used by the people they study, researchers of d/Deaf communities have understood the role of language, and especially signing and sign languages, as a central concern" (2002:73). No matter which culture is being stud ied, it cannot be clearly understood unless the ethnographer is able to understand the language spoken by members of the culture. In the Sarasota Deaf community, members are generally very patient with new signers as long as they make an effort to sign mor e than they verbally speak at events. These signers recognize that the Deaf community will gain more acceptances from the surrounding Hearing community by being patient with hearing ASL students who attend the events. As Sanghas and Monaghan point out "In order for any communities, including linguistic communities, to survive, they must have ways of perpetuating themselves and adapting to changing circumstances" (2002:82). Concerning sign language, it is also important for the hearing ethnographer to und erstand that sign languages can be broken down into three categories: natural sign languages, artificial sign languages, and fingerspelling. Natural sign languages are now generally accepted by linguists as complex, grammatical systems with all the core i ngredients common to other human languagesArtificial signed languages have been developed in many countriesThese are manually coded versions of their corresponding spoken languages, though they sometimes borrow from the lexicon of natural sign languages Fingerspelling is a language contact phenomenon and reflects the social reality that dominant (written) languages need to be dealt with by signers. (2002:74)
! "' Throughout my field research it happened on more than one occasion that a hearing person would te ll me he or she did not think of ASL a s a foreign language, or that ASL is just a signed form of English. It is important to understand the distinction between ASL and other forms of sign language such as SEE (Signed Exact English) and PSE (Pidgen Signed E nglish). M ost importantly, I want people to understand that the distinction exists, and that ASL contains its own unique grammatical system. In Making Minorities: Cultural Space, Stigma Transformation Frames, and the Categorical Status Claims of Deaf, Gay and White Supremacist Activists in Late Twentieth Century America" Mitch Berbier compared the Deaf group with other minority groups in order to show how the Deaf can be understood. The Deaf do not seek to be assimilated into the Hearing; rather, this is what Hearing advocates have strived for in the past and to an extent still hope for. In Berbier's work, a minority group is understood as "'a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled outfor differential and u nequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination 'The irony, he points out, is that if minority status means being the victim of prejudice and discrimination then it would seem almost perverse for minorities to wish to perpetuate' that status" (Berbier 2002:555). As this definition points out, members of these cultural groups desire to be recognized as members of a group who has been oppressed in the past and has survived. Berbier used the concept of "cultura l spaces," and he used a cartographic method in order to illustrate how different cultural groups are located within society.
! "( We might argue then that there exist on many people's cultural maps deviant cultural spaces where stigmatized individuals or g roups may be assigned. Members of the three groups whose rhetoric I explore below the Deaf, gays, and White supremacists all present themselves as having been labeled, stigmatized, or otherwise assigned status in a deviant cultural space, ant to counte r this they claim nondeviance. This process has been called stigma transformation. (2002:557) After finding themselves organized into stigmatized groups, individuals eventually decided to take pride in their segregation and sought acceptance as stigmatize d members of society rather than continuing to fail in assimilating. Interestingly, however, Berbier found that the deaf population fell into two camps: those who viewed their deafness as a medical problem and viewed themselves as deaf', and those who vie wed themselves as members of a minority cultural group that functioned while being surrounded by the Hearing and became Deaf'. Berbier proposed a cartographic metaphor for understanding the layout of these groups within cultural spaces: "the cartographic metaphor is compatible with both an agent centered approach whereby one actively (be in proactively or reactively) seeks status within a particular cultural space (e.g., to become' Indian;' Nagel, 1996), as well as a more structural approach whereby one might be assigned status in a space by others more powerful or the forces of history" (2002:559). Quite often when studying Deaf culture, Deaf populations are understood as having to function while surrounded by Hearing populations and it is crucial to a r esearcher's understanding of both groups to see how both function separately and together this is where the cartographic method becomes useful. Members of Deaf culture have made associations with other minority groups while in search of acceptance and freedom from abuse. Throughout the history of Deaf culture its advocates have worked hard in order convince the Hearing that the Deaf are
! ") similar to other minories and cannot be cured of their minority status. Berbier states that "by indexically associating with minorities, Deaf Culturalists regularly deny the need for a cure for deafness by comparing this to the curing of minorities.' The attitude of curing Deaf people who are socially and culturally Deaf and comfortable in that status and making them into another kind of cultural being (Hearing) is presented as having eugenicist overtones with, according to more than on DC advocate, genocidal' intentions" (2002:564). Hearing advocates have made several nearly successful attempts to turn th e Deaf into Hearing without an option of being Deaf. In its efforts to secure its existence as a minority group, Deaf culture has drawn connections with specific minority groups; a very prominent example is the Deaf pride movement with its echoes of the Ci vil Rights Movement. "Moreover, DC movement activists frequently employ terms such as Deaf Pride' Deaf Power' (Higgins 1980:101 102) and Deaf is Dandy,' (Rosen 1991:128), echoing the Civil Rights Movement slogans of Black Power' Black Pride' and Blac k is Beautiful'" (2002:565). The continual problem is the Hearing culture's denial that being deaf should be a definable characteristic for a minority group. As Berbier explains, "The source of oppression in this case has been hearing people's assumption t hat physiological deafness was not a serious obstacle to becoming culturally hearinghearing people ignoring, denying, and minimizing that difference, and assuming that Deaf people should learn spoken languageThe basis of oppression for Deaf people then, is not the distinction but its denial" (2002:582 583). The main thing that draw s people who are deaf together and creates Deaf communities is the need for social interaction. Susan Foster's research in Social Alienation and Peer Identification: A Study of the social Construction of Deafness (1989)
! #+ displays the important need for socialization and communication that drives members of the Deaf culture. Sadly, as reflected in Foster's work, many deaf children's parents do not learn sign language, even if thei r children learn it in school, so these children are often left feeling a personal void as they become adults and seek people who can understand the frustration of not being able to connect with anyone. "First informants described experiences of alienation which recurred over a lifetime of interactions with hearing people. Second, they describe d experiences of identification and acceptance through interactions with other deaf peopleMost of the informants said that their parents did not learn manual forms o f communication (such as sign language and fingerspelling)" (Foster 2008:228). This social isolation experienced by members of Deaf culture is a large part of what draws them together; as with any cultural group, all of its members are united by the abilit y to effectively communicate with one another something they do not often find when outside their Deaf communities. According to Foster, s ocial alienation is not limited only to the deaf child's home. I f the child is being given a mainstream education, she is constantly surrounded by spoken language with few people who are patient enough to repeat themselves and explain the conversation. "For the mainstreamed student, school often was a continuation and in many instances an exacerbation of the socia l isolation they had experienced at homeA few met deaf people outside of school. In this vein, one person recalled joining a club for deaf teenagers. Through the club, he met deaf peers from around the city. They formed their own basketball team, and taug ht each other homemade signs'" (2008:230). My fourth thesis research interview was with a woman who had grown up with a deaf sister, it was after watching her sister's communicative isolation from the rest of their
! #* family that she decided to learn sign la nguage so that she would not also suffer that isolation from her sister. This is not to say that hearing family members never learned some sign language, but they often do not gain fluency in ASL, and this still isolates the deaf child because full commu nication is still not possible. As Foster found: Even when family members did use manual communication, informants described communication at home as lacking depth, limited to basic vocabulary or fingerspelling. For example: Interviewer: Your parents, do they sign? Informant: My father is real slow; he just fingerspells. If it was really important, he'd write it down. My mother, she fingerspells. Yeah, she's pretty good. But it's boring for me to watch fingerspelling. I said, Hey, why don't you sign?' [An d she would answer] Oh, I don't know how to do that.' I said, Come on.'" (2008 :229) As seen with this example, having rudimentary knowledge of ASL can help a parent communicate with her deaf child, but the parent needs the same level of fluency in ASL t hat she has in English in order to have the same depth of conversation To explain it in a different sense, only being able to fingerspell to a deaf child is fairly similar to only having taken a quick travelers' survival course in Spanish and then using t his to communicate with a child who is only fluent in Spanish perhaps being able to ask her name and her favorite color. Foster states it quite clearly: social interaction is just as badly needed for deaf children as for hearing children, and it is this need for socialization that fuels the creation of Deaf communities. "Put another way, if deafness had no social significance, would there be a deaf community?" (2008:234). It cannot be denied in the case of Deaf culture: Deaf clubs thrive because they are often the only places Deaf people can be sure they will actually be able to have enjoyable in depth conversations with people. Foster writes,
! #" "The interactionist approach makes possible an understanding and acknowledgement of shared responsibility for th e social construction of deafness. It also holds the blueprint for change: through accommodation and a greater acceptance of individual differences, the larger community can embrace all its members" (2008:234). Manual languages such as ASL are not the onl y speech forms that have been targeted as inferior to English. James Collins examines the difficulties experienced with Black English Ve rnacular (BEV) in "The Ebonics Controversy in C ontext" (1999) H e identifies the close connections between a minority gr oup and its identifying language or dialect For example, the role education has played in relation to BEV carries some similarities with the use of ASL in education: "Within a month of its initial pronouncement, having faced a barrage of criticism, the Sc hool Board modified its original proposal in minor ways, removing a phrase about genetically based' languages and changing an assertion that Ebonics was not a dialect of English' to the more defensible claim that aspects of the structure and use of Eboni cs derive from African language communities" (1999:203). These premises were seen as an opportunity for providing additional resources in educating students who identified as using Ebonics more prominently than Standard English, and this could be compared to the resources that are supposed to be available for deaf students. Schools are required to provide educational opportunities for students of any language background. Karen Nakamura, an anthropologist who teaches at Yale, has conducted research on the D eaf culture in Japan and her book, Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity provides insight to understanding Deaf culture from an anthropological perspective. Nakamura examines how the Japanese Deaf characterize their identity,
! ## whether they vi ew themselves as disabled or as part of a cultural minority. She writes, "The disability frame impacts the community differently from an ethnic minority frame. For example, men and women in the deaf middle generation in Japan unhesitatingly and unequivocal ly argue that they are Japanese first and deaf second" (Nakamura 2006:8). The deaf in Japan often grow up with pride in being Japanese first, maybe learning about a Deaf culture later in life because schools for the deaf are fewer and residential schools f or the deaf, where much of Deaf culture grows, are incredibly expensive in Japan. In Japan, being deaf may often be seen as something that can be coped with, instead of being a source of pride. Some of the Japanese Deaf have changed this and have built the D Pro organization, which is a Deaf group in Japan fighting for Japanese Deaf culture to be recognized as a linguistic minority. Similar to how Deaf culture in the US can be denied by both hearing and deaf members of the population, however, deafness in J apan is seen as disability first and a cultural minority second. "Deafness has been called a hidden disability because you cannot tell from looking at someone that she is deaf unless she is wearing a hearing aidYou are who you are Japanese, a Christian, a painter, photographer, architect but the language barrier places you out of the mainstream of all those categories" (2006:11). Claiming to be Japanese and deaf, or Japanese Deaf, means deciding a person's identity is seen respectively as either a disa bility or a connection to a cultural minority. Nakamura points out that "deafness is very different from other ethnic identities (such as being Black or Hispanic) in that very few deaf children are born to deaf parents, only 10 percent in most estimates Because the deaf community represents a unique type of non family based, nonethnic, cultural, and linguistic minority, we need to approach the
! #$ study of deaf identity through different channels from those for traditional ethnic minorities" (2006:12). Heari ng parents (who are often uninformed about Deaf culture and follow medical advice unquestioningly) work at integrating their deaf child into the Hearing world. It is usually not until adulthood that these deaf individuals learn about ASL and Deaf culture. Deaf communities can be located by finding individuals who communicate with sign language. As Nakamura explains, "Languages are part and parcel of the national borders (both physical and ethnic) of the imagined nations' that separate us (cf. Anderson 1991) imagined' not because there might be tangible cultural and ethnic boundaries between two nations, but becau se the differences that seem so clearly defined on a map become a swirling mix of pointillistic variation on the ground" (2006:13). As Nakamura puts it, when navigating between the Hearing and Deaf portions of a city, university, state, or country, the div isions can be found by navigating the language barriers that member s of each linguistic group draw around themselves Examples of these barriers in everyday life in the US include Deaf clubs, and the availability of closed captions. Only recently did some movie theaters begin supplying glasses that display closed captions for all movies available at that particular theater. There are examples where people who were deaf used sign language to communicate and were fully accepted into the Hearing community; a separate Deaf community was not created because there was complete acceptance of the deaf, and the hearing members of the community learned sign language. Nora Groce in Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard presents an ethnographic study of a historic community from the1800s S he finds again and again
! #% that the unusually large deaf portion of the population was accepted into every facet of the community on Martha's Vineyard. When Groce asked an informant how hearing pe ople felt about the large number of deaf people, he responded: "Oh,' he said, they didn't think anything about them, they were just like everyone else.' But how did people communicate with them by writing everything down?' No,' said Gale, surprised t hat I should ask such an obvious question. You see, everyone here spoke sign language'" (Groce 1985:2). This example of an integrated community of hearing and deaf from the 1800s is a rare historic example of linguistic acceptance. On the Vineyard, ho wever, the hearing people were bilingual in English and the Island sign language. This adaptation had more than linguistic significance, for it eliminated the wall that separates most deaf people from the rest of society" (1985:4). During this time, when M artha's Vineyard was still fairly isolated from the mainland, the deaf functioned in all job circles and social circles; there were not any notions of segregating the deaf to menial jobs or preventing one deaf person from marrying another. "I asked about t hose who were handicapped by deafness when she was a girl, Oh,' she said emphatically, those people weren't handicapped. They were just deaf'" (1985:5). In this community, its inhabitants steeped over the language barrier as easily as if it had been a tw ig already snapped in two. Similar to when I attended an immersion program at Gallaudet University, children o n Martha's Vineyard learned the Vineyard sign language during their daily lives, no matter if they were born into a hearing or deaf family. "On the Vineyard, hearing children with no deaf immediate family members learned sign language (which they called deaf and dumb') by accompanying their parents on daily chores to the
! #& neighbors or the store, where they saw signs used regularly. They needed to learn the language to communicate with deaf adults as well as deaf playmates" (Groce 1985:54). These parts of the Vineyard, specifically Tisbury and Chilmark wh ich had higher deaf populations merely accepted that sign language was possible in their fam ilies and as a result sign language was widely accepted. Gaylene Becker has done research on stigma, and how it is created and persists within societies around the world. In The Dilemma of Difference: A Multidisciplinary View of Stigma (Ainlay, Becker, a nd Coleman, eds. 1986), Becker and others provide an analysis of stigma from various academic viewpoints. Considering all of these viewpoints, Becker states "Three important aspects of stigma emerge from this multidisciplinary examination and may forecast its future. They are fear, stigma's primary affective component; stereotyping, its primary cognitive component; and social control, its primary behavioral component" (1986:227). T hese aspects provide a clear explanation of something that is very present i n the Deaf culture, a large motivation in the creation of Deaf communities across the US was people's fear of sign language, the stereotypical image of deaf people also being mentally simple, and the desire of many Hearing officials to exert their control over the Deaf. As cultures shift and societies grow, stigmatized groups can make attempts at becoming de stigmatized, only to be stopped by other members of society. "It further appears that the destigmatization process is asymmetrical. That is, current developments may bring an immediate halt to the destigmatization process by reawakening and reinforcing old negative stereotypes and attitudes" (Ainlay, Coleman and Becker 1986:5). An example of this in Deaf culture is the Milan Conference of 1880; in this conference
! #' Alexander Graham Bell and his associates made their argument in favor of oralism, and after this conference there was a large surge of oral education and suppression of educating deaf children in ASL. Since that conference, some 130 years later there has been a constant uphill battle to place sign language back in prominence in teaching deaf children. Being a part of a stigmatized group means that its members cannot go about without being reminded that they are stigmatized. The refusal by the rest of society to accept the deaf as normal provided the motivation for creating Deaf culture, where ASL became the lingua franca. "The very fact of exclusion from part or most of American life can be a continued reminder of one's stigma. Black men and w omen who are excluded on the basis of race from living in certain areas, from attending certain schools, and from becoming members of certain social clubs experience a lifetime of stigma" ( Becker 1986:49). Similarly, in the past, deaf children were sent a way to mental institutions, and now deaf children are often sent to residential schools (where many deaf children learn about Deaf culture). This does not mean that members do not enjoy their lives as part of Deaf culture, only that its existence was influ enced by the deaf being stigmatized and excluded from the Hearing culture because of the language barrier. Even though Groce presented the example of Martha's Vineyard, where the hearing community was bilingual, this acceptance that deafness only has meant learning another language has not become widespread. Instead, the stigma of the deaf being disabled persists through Hearing society, and with it, sign language is stigmatized. As physically expressive as is, sign language can be viewed as unseemly in the Hearing culture.
! #( The influence of power in the creation of minority cultures is important to understand. Michele Friedner examines this influence in Biopower, Biosociality, and Community Formation: How Biopower is Constitutive of the Deaf Community (201 0). "I suggest that the Deaf community can be seen as biosociality as something produced by and through, and not in spite of, the existence of power" (Friedner 2010:337). Friedner compares the works of Harlan Lane and Paddy Ladd with work by Michel Foucaul t, mainly in presenting the relationship between power in the self and the community with regard to how it is formed and exerted. "I argue that deafness as a category creates identities and communities specifically, the Deaf community. It is important to t ake away from Foucault an understanding of the relationship between power, self (formation), and community (formation); as the body becomes a key site for exerting power, it also becomes an important site for examining how subjects, identities, and communi ties are created through power" (2010:342). What is important to Friedner is that individuals are capable of exerting influence over a situation, and with that, members of the Deaf community are able to exert power in creating their own community even as H earing individuals attempt to exert their power in order to assimilate the Deaf community into the Hearing community. Friedner concludes that Lane and Ladd chose to utilize an "impact model," meaning that power moves in one direction through the hearing world as a means of oppressing the Deaf. "Both theorists are working with impact models' of power, in which power moves in one direction: It emanates from either the audist hearing world, the hearing majority, or the state, and it oppresses Deaf people. A s a result of biopower, deaf individuals are alienated from themselves and others like them and are forced to
! #) embody the manners, culture, and values of the majority (hearing world)" (2010:339). Even though both authors examine the path of power being used as a means of oppressing the Deaf community that the Deaf must battle to overcome, Friedner notes that their battle is also fought by using their own power in protecting their language and community. "It also therefore follows that, for Lane and Ladd, th e Deaf community and Deaf culture are not created or produced by power; rather, they are created or produced in spite of power" (Friedner 2010:339). Although Foucault presents an argument that power resides in each individual and can also be wielded throug h the individual's community as people unite, Lane and Ladd approach their argument from the viewpoint of power solely being used to oppress the Deaf, and the Deaf surviving in spite of this power. One of the problems I have encountered with teaching oth ers about Deaf culture is helping them to understand the difference between English and American Sign Language (ASL), and that ASL is recognized as a foreign language. In Lost in transcription: the problematics of commensurability in academic representatio ns of American Sign Language (2009), Abigail Rosenthal points out the difficulty ethnographers have in transcribing interviews in ASL into English. "American Sign Language (henceforth ASL) lacks either a standard or informally popular orthography to repres ent the language in everything from writing e mails to communicating political claims" (Rosenthal 2009:595). ASL does n ot have a standard written form; usually what happens is that while in school deaf students learn English and use it for any writing they have to do. Transcribing ASL falls into three main categories: broad transcriptions into English, English glosses, and photographs/video recordings (2009:600 609). Broad
! $+ transcriptions are common, and this is probably the most popular method people will see in the field. The problem with using broad transcriptions is that the ethnographer will lose some of the meaning in ASL by automatically translating it into English. "Transcriptional decisions, like including the definite article the which is not a p art of the ASL lexicon, suggest that the author is translating into English rather than glossing the speech act" (2009:602). Glossing is a transcription technique that involves transcribing each sign as it is signed without putting them into an English gra mmatical structure. For those who understand ASL, glossing makes sense because the reader can sign the words while reading them; to people who do not understand ASL, glossing may appear undeveloped. "This is a particular challenge for transcribing ASL, whe re nonlexical items tend to more closely resemble what linguists studying spoken languages have historically treated as gestures or paralinguistic features" (2009:603). The third method is to videotape signed conversations, this method captures ASL in its most pure and beautiful form, but still makes it difficult to transcribe because ASL lacks a written form so making linguistic comparisons becomes fairly difficult. "But using video or pictures to represent ASL also makes comparisons to transcripts from ot her languages a real challenge. Having a usable written form can greatly facilitate the identification of linguistic structures and comparisons between languages (Duranti 1994:40) and these goals are so far largely confounded by the use of visual transcrip ts" (2009:609). These books and articles have provided me with a history of Deaf culture and an anthropological understanding of difficulties the members of Deaf culture faces as well, such as stigma and being recognized as a minority cultural group. In the following chapters, I will draw on these readings to enhance my observations of the Deaf
! $* community in understanding how Deaf culture has changed from its beginnings in France and how it functions today. In addition to this, I will place my observations in an anthropological perspective in order to understand each individual's understanding of the Sarasota Deaf community, from those who are able to hear to t hose who are deaf.
! $" Chapter Two Methodology "Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write." John Adams Language My first task in preparing to understand the Deaf community was to learn American Sign Language. There was the option of finding an interpreter for when I would be conducting interviews, but I decided that it would be better for this project, and my unders tanding of the Deaf community, if I could conduct research without an interpreter. The first step in understanding ASL was learning its relationship to Deaf culture. Throughout this project it became clear that ASL and Deaf culture are very intertwined; AS L embodies the spirit of Deaf culture and what has survived throughout every effort to make Deaf communities part of the hearing world. According to Wilhem von Humboldt, as quoted by Zdenek Salzmann in Language, Culture, and Society," "The spiritual trait s and the structure of the language of a people are so intimately blended that, given either of the two, one should be able to derive the other from it to the fullest extentLanguage is the outward manifestation of the spirit of people: their language is t heir spirit, and their spirit is their language; it is difficult to imagine any two things more identical" ( Salzmann 2007:49). ASL is the embodiment of American Deaf culture, and all that it means for those who use the language can be seen and felt when si gning and watching people sign: the intensity of facial expressions, hands quickly flying across his/her signing space. In understanding all these elements of the language there is a key moment of communicating with honesty that can be veiled in verbal
! $# lan guages by changing the tone of voice and keeping a calm facial expression rather than using facial expressions as an aid to communication. In order to fully understand ASL, the components of the language must be understood. As Salzmann explains: Ameslan [A SL] offers its users some 5,000 signs, with new ones coined as needed. It makes use of three dimensional sign space that forms a "bubble" about the signer extending roughly from the waist to the top of the head and outward from the extreme left to the extr eme right as far as the signer can reach. Within the sign space, the user can specify time relationships, distinguish among several persons that are being signed about, signal questions and embedded clauses, and express a variety of grammatical categories such as plurality and degree (as in good, better, best ) as well as aspectual differences of a verbal action such as habituality, repetition, intensity, and continuity. Head tilt, eyebrow and lip configuration, and other body motions are frequently used to add to the expressive capacity of manual gestures. (Salzmann 2007:274) Salzmann notes that ASL utilizes a signing space, which is where the signer communicates. The signing space is unique to signed languages and it is where the signer's voice is unique t o ASL. In addition to the signing space, ASL also has a unique grammar. Salzmann writes, "Contrary to popular misconceptions, primary sign languages used by the deaf are highly structured, complete, and independent communicative systems, comparable in co mplexity to spoken and written languages; otherwise they could not substitute for spoken languages as effectively as they do. Furthermore, they are natural languages in the sense that their acquisition is the automatic result of interaction with others who depend upon signing" (2007:275). Members of Deaf culture can experience code switching as they maneuver between ASL and English Milroy and Milroy discuss the stigmatization that can be experienced when people decide to communicate in less popular langua ges or dialects, even when they know how to use the more accepted tongue: "Mixed codes are
! $$ particularly stigmatized, probably as a consequence of underlying ideologies of linguistic purity''Tex Mex' is a derogatory term for the variety used by Spanish/En glish bilinguals in Calfornia. Similar terms are tuti futi' (Panjabi and English); Joual' (Canadian French and English) and verbal salad' (Yoruba and English)" (Milroy and Milroy 1987:186). It is a mark of the importance language carries for members of c ultural minorities that many hold onto their mother tongue (ASL for those who are born deaf and grow up in Deaf culture) rather than accepting a place in the majority population and communicating with what is viewed as the "pure" language. In this case, fu ll participation in the majority would mean the Deaf learning to communicate verbally in English and learning to lip read. Culture David Fetterman states that "culture comprises the ideas, beliefs, and knowledge that characterize a particular group of pe ople" (Fetterman 2010:16). Culture encompasses every aspect that defines a group. In understanding Deaf culture in the USA, how Deaf culture functions in conjunction with the Hearing culture must be studied. Studying this is similar to observing other cult ures in the sense that each culture cannot be understood without also taking into account the surrounding cultural groups, in this case how the Deaf culture functions while being surrounded by the Hearing culture. According to Fetterman, Intercultural div ersity refers to the differences between two culturesIntercultural differences are reasonably easy to see. Compare the descriptions of two different cultures on a point by point basis their political, religious, economic, kinship, and ecological systems and other pertinent dimensions" (2010:25). Homer G.
! $% Barnett provides a caution in the direct comparison of cultures, however: "A comparison of cultures by matching their traits is an acceptable technique for determining degrees of similarity. But those tr aits cannot be processed by mathematical formula without distorting their significance. Matching is not measuring, and the subordinate features in a cluster of traits is not the numerical equivalents of their foundation" ( Barnett 1983:160). Understanding t he differences between Deaf culture and Hearing culture requires active observation of everyday life in the hearing world while also noting the differences during fieldwork. Members of Hearing and Deaf cultures exhibit some very clear differences among the ir members; for example, in Deaf culture it is normal for people to be quite frank with one another, whereas in Hearing culture many people learn how to veil emotions with facial expressions. Also, within Deaf culture it is accepted that by signing with pe ople in a public area the conversation is not private, while in the Hearing culture people who talk together in a public place, such as a restaurant, will expect others to respect their privacy and not "eavesdrop." Such differences between these two groups are numerous and they are important as constant reminders that each culture is unique; they should not be used simply as points of comparison. It became necessary for me to understand the differences in both cultural groups because in everyday society in the US it is nearly impossible to tell who is hearing and who is deaf by looking at a person; deafness is sometimes called the invisible disability. As a result, I had to pay special attention to understanding the differences between the two. In pursuing an understanding of the Deaf community in Sarasota, FL it was important to learn how the group is structured as well as how each individual functions within that group. Linguistic anthropologist Alessandro Duranti provides a detailed
! $& explanatio n of what an ethnographer looks for when studying a cultural group. He sums it up this way: The general issue behind these themes is a concern with the constitution of society and culture. Ethnographers gather information in order to answer two basic ques tions: (1) how is social order constituted (created, managed, reproduced), that is, what makes this particular group of people a functioning unit of some sort? and (2) how do individuals make sense of their way of living, that is, how do they explain (to t hemselves first) why they live the way they do and differently from others (sometimes even their neighbors)? (Duranti 1997:90) To draw conclusions from my field research, I first had to understand how the Sarasota Deaf community was structured. I needed t o know when and where Deaf events were held, who organized them, who took charge among the community. Then I needed to understand something about the individuals within the Deaf community, including people who regularly attended Deaf events, and also these students in ASL classes who were slowly joining the Deaf community. It was also clear that in order to provide a detailed explanation of Deaf culture to the Hearing culture, it was necessary to become a "cultural mediator" of sorts in order to clearly represent it from the perspective of a hearing woman. I find Duranti's discussion of the cultural mediator helpful: "Ethnographers thus have started to recognize that they operate as cultural mediators between two traditions: one established by their disci pline and their particular theoretical orientation and the other represented by the people they study and live with, who have their own understanding of what the fieldworkers should be doing and how they should conduct themselves" (Duranti 1997:91). As a hearing person making an entrance into the Deaf community, my first order of business was to understand how people within Deaf culture use American Sign Language (ASL). Understanding ASL gave much greater insight to this research because
! $' by communicating in ASL, thoughts are traded between two people through the hands and facial expressions instead of verbally, and this communication is incredibly different from spoken languages. By signing, a person must be comfortable with telling others her thoughts bec ause those thoughts will be clearly seen in the signer's face and body language. A story from Alma Gottlieb and Philip Graham's article, "Choosing a Host," gives an example of how important language is while conducting fieldwork: "'Well, this is it,' Phili p said as we lay in bed. What do you think?' I asked. Can you handle it?' I have no idea, it's all soI can't say, it'soverwhelming.' Philip sighed. Do you think you'll be able to write about it?' Maybe.' Philip paused. Do you really think we'll lea rn the damn language?' We'd better,' I answered quickly" (Gottlieb and Graham 1996:86). As this example shows, language is one of the most important elements in understanding how people within a culture live. Benedict Anderson's work provided additional insight into Deaf culture. In his discussion of imagined communities, Anderson notes, "The formal universality of nationality as a sociocultural concept in the modern world everyone can, should, will have a nationality, as he or she has' a gender vs. the irremediable particularity of its concrete manifestations, such that, by definition, Greek' nationality is sui generis" (Anderson 1983:5). As Anderson shows, each person claims her own nationality and this provides an explanation for why members of D eaf culture refuse to let go of this label; no matter what has been done to alter or undo Deaf culture, it resiliently persists. In addition, Deaf culture is a group that is comprised of widely voluntary membership. Some who are born deaf grow up with a lo cal Deaf community and it becomes a part of their identity early on. In contrast to this, some who are born deaf grow up surrounded by only hearing
! $( people with only hearing schools nearby; as a result, they may not hear about Deaf culture until adulthood a nd then might choose t o make it part of their identities A third perspective is that of hearing people who become involved in Deaf culture. From this angle some choose to identify at least partly with Deaf culture after learning ASL or after gaining s ome personal connection with the cultural group. Ethnographic Concepts/Factors An ethnography is comprised of numerous elements that each anthropology student should pay heed to, both while in the field and afterwards when writing up her findings. In or der to conduct thorough fieldwork, an ethnographer must learn the different tools available to her, such as interviews, participant observation, and maps. The ethnographer must navigate through her fieldwork while at the same time navigating through person al bias es one of which can be the need to prove oneself. Jean Jackson discussed this in her piec e, "On Trying to Be an Amazon" : "In the bad old days before the women's movement, female graduate students were led to believe that despite our gender related deficiencies, if we were made of the "Right Stuff" we could overcome those deficiencies and get at the truth" (1986:263). Feeling of needing to earn one's place in the field and academia still surface when anthropology students of either gender encounter c hallenges during a fieldwork experience. In those initial weeks out in the field, the researcher learns as much about herself as about her subject:
! $) It is common knowledge that when you do fieldwork you find out about the culture you're studying, your own culture, and yourself. You your eyes, your ears are the yardstick, the microscope, the data acquiring instrument. And who you are is in part a result of the categories to which you belong: marginal native though you may think of yourself, you are still a participating member of your own culture and you carry those perceptions and understandings with you. (Jackson 1986:264) Deciding how to present oneself while in the field is also an important decision to make, and it was somewhat of a challenge to figure out how to explain my field research to people I met. Many of them had not heard of New College or the senior thesis project before, so I had to figure out how to describe it. Michael Angrosino talks about his difficulties in explaining who he wa s to his Jamaican subjects: "In the minds of many of the villages, then, the question Buh who you is, man?' was already answered: I was an American cowboy.' Since I was going to be living on the island for a long time, they assumed that I would not be sa tisfied with a casual fling with a town prostitute but would require a more permanent bit of ginger' in a set up household" (1986:72). After her time in the field is complete, the ethnographer must write up her research using tools that will present as c lear a representation of the people studied as possible; these tools include transcribing interviews and providing maps with the ethnography. During the write up process, part of the editing can include having to remove personal bias or correct an assumpti on that the writer does not recognize initially because it has been an understood part of her perception of the world. In her work, "Gender Bias and Sex Bias: Removing Our Cultural Blinders in the Field" (1986), Elizabeth Faithorn mentions the difficulty o f writing without seeing things through one's own culture: "Try as hard as we might, it is still not possible to go into another culture
! %+ completely free of the one into which we were first socialized, and this can have a profound and often unrecognized eff ect on the resul ts of our research" (1986:275, see also Sanjek 1990). Every ethnographer chooses a lens through which the public will see her research. One can choose to focus on an emic perspective, in which an ethnographer attempts to present her findin gs from within the group studied, or an etic perspective, through which the research is presented from the outside looking in. While it would have been preferable to situate the results of this research from both emic and etic perspectives, my understandin g of the cultural group can only be presented as an outsider looking in from a primarily etic perspective. As Fetterman explains, appreciating where the observer is situated is a part of the process. "An etic perspective is the external, social scientific perspective of realityMost ethnographers start collecting data from the emic perspective and then try to make sense of what they have collected in terms of both the native's view and their own scientific analysis" (Fetterman 2010:22). Early on in fieldwor k for this project it was my aim to present the Deaf community as it would be seen by a Deaf person, but somewhere along the line I realized that I could not do so in good faith because I could never capture how a Deaf person would view Deaf events. I coul d only report what I saw and how I viewed Deaf events and the people I met. Combined with presenting a mixture of emic and etic perspectives, an ethnographer also aims to keep her writings nonjudgmental in order to suppress personal bias. "A nonjudgmenta l orientation requires the ethnographer to suspend personal valuation of any given cultural practice. Maintaining a nonjudgmental orientation is similar to suspending disbelief while one watches a movie or play or reads a book one
! %* accepts what may be an obviously illogical or unbelievable set of circumstances to allow the author to unravel a riveting story" (2010:23). Being able to present a research subject without simultaneously presenting a personal bias can be a challenge after spending a large amount of time with a group. As Fetterman points out, cancelling out a personal evaluation of a culture's habits or etiquette is vital in presenting a nonjudgmental final project. For example when new students of ASL first go into the Deaf community it can be un settling to be trapped on the shoulder whenever someone wants to get their attention. Instances such as this should be viewed as part of learning about Deaf culture and not as a shocking difference between the Hearing and Deaf (something that can happen wh en a hearing person has her first experience in the Deaf world). While out in the field conducting research, among the first choices the ethnographer must make is how she will interact with the people she wishes to learn about. Will she be an active pres ence in their interactions or will she choose to be more removed? As Fetterman explains, "Participant observation is immersion in a culture. Ideally, the ethnographer lives and works in the community for 6 months to a year or more, learning the language an d seeing patterns of behavior over time" (2010:37). My ethnography relies heavily on participant observation; when attending Deaf events it enriched my experience in the Deaf community that I signed with people in order to gain an understanding of communic ation through sign language that would have been impossible had I only been watching people sign. Faithorn talks about how she found herself manipulating her position with Homaya villagers during her field research:
! %" I realized that I was manipulating m y roles so that I could be Ayalunta when it felt advantageous or comfortable and not Ayalunta when it didn't; but I also knew that the other Kafe women didn't have the same choice. I believe that the ambivalence I felt toward them initially stemmed largely from not wanting to be perceived as one of them' continuously and thus losing my flexibility in having the best of both worlds. (Faithorn 1986:283) Similar to how Faithorn found herself switching her posi tion, I would find myself wrestli ng with if I fe lt I was more of a Hearing person or a Deaf person after spending time in the Deaf community. There were times where it was clear that I was a Hearing person with a lot to learn, and other times I felt as though I had been accepted into the Deaf community. After I made cont act with some of the people who regularly attended Deaf events, I began conducting interviews so that I could gather individual opinions about their involvement in the Deaf community. It was during these interviews that I gained invaluab le information about Deaf culture, these interviews gave me a better understanding than I could have obtained by reading about Deaf culture or by only watching people at the events. I agree with Fetterman when he states "Interviews explain and put into a larger context what the ethnographer sees and experiences. They require ver bal interaction, and language is the commodity of discourse" (2010:40). Roger Sanjek goes into great depth about the elements of writing up ethnographic research in his piece, "On Ethnographic Validity" (1990). While writing each chapter of this project, I went through several drafts and had to overcome any shyness I had about showing my work to other people. Sanjek discusses how writing becomes a social practice, similar to the wee kly meetings I had with my thesis advisor and friends: "Writing is sometimes a socialized process. After preparing detailed outlines, Malinowski dictated his writing, shared it with his students, read it in seminar, and enjoyed the
! %# assistance of his wife, Elsie, in its editing" (1990:389). An extra pressure that an ethnographer carries through the whole process of conducting fieldwork and w riting up the results is that no one else can go back and check her results because she was the only one conducting thi s fieldwork. As a result, and as Sanjek summarizes, ethnographers try to make their results as reliable as possible in order to maintain the integrity of their work: "In ethnography, reliability' verges on affectation. We cannot expect and do not hope tha t another investigator will repeat the fieldwork and confirm the results before they are published. Reliability is flashed to show the integrity or ingenuity of research design; it is not meant as an invitation to go to my village' and do it over again" ( 1990:394). Before I began my fieldwork I needed to gain approval from the New College Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB serves a very important purpose in insuring that the proposed research will not bring harm to the intended subjects. "While lif e in the field is an individual experience, it is institutionally monitored, and it is extremely important to consider the roles of sponsoring institutions in differing historical contexts in accounting for the nature of fieldwork, as experienced and as re ported" ( Hinsley 1983:55). Although it can be complicated to gain approval for research if there is a difference of opinion between the researcher and IRB, the IRB is still an important part of conducting research because it keeps everyone honest about wha t they intend to do and requires them to keep all of their subjects aware that they are allowed to withdraw their consent at anytime. In Spring 2011, while trying to obtain IRB approval for my thesis research, I had a disagreement with the IRB over its def inition of "disabled groups" as part of its classification of a "vulnerable population." Even in this early stage of my
! %$ research, I had learned enough about Deaf culture to know about the Deaf pride movement and that members of the Deaf culture would not c lassify themselves as disabled, so in this part of my IRB form I stated that I was not studying a vulnerable population. Unfortunately, because the IRB must meet the requirements of federal law, I could not get IRB approval unless I agreed to change my ans wer and acknowledge that I was researching a "vulnerable" population. Hopefully in the future a distinction can be made between deaf and Deaf in the federal laws, so that those who identify as members of the cultural minority can be respected; until then, my experience can serve as an example of changes that can be made in order to respect cultural minorities. I knew from the beginning that language was going to be among the most important elements of understanding the people identifying with Deaf culture "Linguistic anthropology's contribution to the ongoing definition of ethnography, its goals, conditions, and outcomes is an emphasis on the need to let our subjects speak, as much as possible, with their voices and their bodies, to tell the stories they normally tell in their daily life" (Duranti 1997:95). Before and after I started learning ASL, it was clear to me that people who sign communicate as effectively as someone using her voice could, if not more effectively in some cases. When the verbal is ta ken away from communication, the person using ASL must transmit all of the thoughts and emotions that would have gone into verbalization by sending them through signing and the face. From experience in the field, I find that it does work very well in telli ng other signers what is on one's mind. In some cases, signing is even more effective than speaking because signers are very adept at reading body language, so hiding my true thoughts on any topic of conversation was difficult. It was also difficult to act as though I had understood something when I did not
! %% because a fluent signer knew when I was confused and would keep explaining the signs being used until I clearly understood. Deaf events took place at various restaurants; the set up was different at each location. In some of the restaurants, people who attended the events were seated at one of a group of tables that had been set aside; in other places tables were continually ad ded to a central area as more people arrived throughout the evening. Understanding the proxemics of each site, the arrangement of the space and how it was perceived, told me even more about how people interacted. For example, at sites with separate tables people were more likely to try to sit with people they knew already. At sites where tables were joined together, as newcomers arrived people were more likely to sit wherever they could find a seat and talk with the people they had just met. In their introd uction to ethnographic research, Julia Crane and Michael Angrosino observe, "People in every society grow up learning to move through space and interact with others in the patterned ways that their respective societies consider appropriate and that are rel ated to the society's own lifestyle, patterns of architectural design, furniture placement, and so on" (Crane and Angrosino 1992:26). Making maps can aid the ethnographer in gaining understanding of the proxemics at each site. By drawing the layout of each site and then adding in how people interacted to the map, the ethnographer now has the clear sense of where people were during the event and how they interacted. "For the anthropologist, whether an ethnographer or an archaeologist, an important considerat ion behind map making will always be the ties between physical space and social relationships" (1992:30). For this field research, I drew maps of Primo's Ristorante, Starbucks, and Red
! %& Elephant in order to better understand how Deaf events fit into the sur rounding Hearing culture my field map of Primo's Ristorante can be seen in Figure 1 Figure 1: Site map of Primo's Ristorante, drawn after attending three Deaf events at this location During Deaf events it fell to me as the researcher to interact with the people there. William Foote Whyte points out that researchers work hard in order to remain impartial, but still must acknowledge making unique observations. "They fail to note that the researcher, like his informants, is a social animal. He has a role to play, and he has his own personality needs that must be met in some degree if he is to function successfully" (Whyte 1996:11). When I went into the field my first intention was to obser ve the people at the Deaf events and sign with them as much as I could, but what I did not expect was that I would walk away from the project with new friendships.
! %' Understanding Deaf culture was my main intention throughout this research, and it was whil e signing with people at Deaf events and conducting interviews that my ideas and conclusions grew. As Whyte discovered, "The ideas grow up in part out of our immersion in the data and out of the whole process of living. Since so much of this process of ana lysis proceeds on the unconscious level, I am sure that we can never present a full account of it" (1996:12). In every form of research I have done throughout my college experience, including this thesis project, I have started out with an initial idea tha t I thought would be supported, and just as often I have proceeded to find that my results were not at all what I was expecting to learn. If nothing else, this process has taught me never to be hard pressed to find what I expect and to keep an open mind, a lways essential to the anthropologist. During this thesis research I expected to learn a lot about ASL and Deaf culture, and I did. But by the end of my research I had learned a great deal more about how Deaf culture could be understood from the eyes of a deaf, hearing, or hard of hearing person. One anxiety I carried throughout my field research was how to explain the purpose of my work to people I met while out in the field. From his work with adolescents in Chicago, Jay Macleod provides some explanatio n of how to handle the issue. "Actually, I probably should have explained my project to them much earlier, but I wanted to be considered okay' before springing on the youths my academic interest in them" (Macleod 1996:126). All throughout the research pro cess I was clear when people at Deaf events asked why I was learning ASL and what I studied at school, but I was always a little worried that some might perceive my work as merely being "a project for
! %( school" and not see my desire to participate in Deaf cu lture as a sincere intention to understand it. When writing a ethnography, there is often a period of feeling clueless as to what the message will actually be. Of course, there are thoughts before and during fieldwork when the ethnographer reviews he r motivations for conducting the research, but things often look different after completing it. Clifford Geertz said it well: "This backward order of things first you write and then you figure out what you are writing about may seem odd, or even perver se, but it is, I think, at least most of the time, standard procedure in cultural anthropology" (Geertz 1973:v). In all of this writing, the amount of detail is going to be what puts the reader into the ethnographer's shoes, so to speak, as far as understa nding what she saw and observed during fieldwork. The ethnographer has the opportunity to both relay actions observed and provide an interpretation. But the point is that between what Ryle calls the "thin description" of what the rehearse (parodist, winke r, twitcher) is doing ("rapidly contracting his right eyelids") and the "thick description" of what he is doing ("practicing a burlesque of a friend faking a wink to deceive an innocent into thinking a conspiracy is in motion") lies the object of ethnogra phy: a stratified hierarchy of meaningful structures in terms of which twitches, winks, fake winks, parodies, rehearsals of parodies are produced, perceived, and interpreted, and without which they would not (not even the zero form twitches, which, as a cu ltural category are as much nonwinks as winks are nontwitches) in fact exist no matter what anyone did or didn't do with his eyelids. (Geertz 1973:7) This distinction concerning the difference between thin and thick description clearly points out the d ifferent experience a reader can have if the ethnographer only provides a thin description and merely gives a quick summary of an event, or a thick description with richer detail and an interpretation.
! %) Once the fieldwork was completed it was time to anal yze my findings. In order to draw the accurate conclusions that I hoped for, and that also kept faith with the people I had met in the Deaf community, it was imperative that my mind's eye remain open throughout the process. A passage from Keith Basso's Wis dom Sits in Places in which his Western Apache subjects explain aspec ts of their concept of "wisdom," describes what I was looking for in myself in order to draw the best conclusions possible: "If your mind is not smooth you will fail to see danger. You will trust your eyes but they will deceive you. You will be easily tricked and fooled. Then there will be nothing but trouble for you. You must make your mind smooth. "If your mind is not resilient you will be easily startled. You will be easily frightened You will try to think quickly but you won't think clearly. You yourself will stand in the way of your own mind. You yourself will block it. Then there will be trouble for you. You must make your mind resilient. "If your mind is not steady you will be eas ily angered and upset. You will be arrogant and proud. You will look down on other people. You will envy them and desire their possessions. You will speak about them without thinking. (Basso 1996:126) When I pursued this research I knew it would become a very personal subject for me, but that my research would count for very little if I could not present it with an open mind and a steady stream of thoughts.
! &+ Chapter Three Fieldwork Chapter If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is no barking dog to be tethered on a ten foot chain. Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. Introduction My interest in studying Deaf culture began while I was conducting an Independent Study Project (ISP) in Guatemala in January 2011. I was continually asked about my culture (What did people do in America? What are they like?) and found myself unable to prov ide answers. Unwilling to let such questions slide by, I asked myself what I wanted to know about my home country. I realized that I was curious about Deaf culture; I knew that it existed, but I did not know as much as I wanted. I set about to change that. With my professor's approval and her surprise that I had happened upon this topic, my long awaited journey to understand Deaf culture began. I say long awaited because an interest in American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf culture has been in the back of m y mind since I was a child. When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed as being partially deaf. It was only a small hearing loss, but as a result I was constantly worried about how I would understand people in less than perfect situations. It was not until I began teaching ASL that I discovered how clear communication could be. With ASL, all I had to do was be able to see a person's hands and face. This project changed me. Now I will tell people that I am partially deaf in the same manner that I say I am parti ally Greek; it has become a part of who I am and how I choose to identify myself.
! &* However, it was clear as my research began that I would have to monitor how subjectively involved I became, and I tried to limit potential bias as much as I could. It is a co mmon difficulty that every ethnographer faces in some way and now it was my turn. There was no way for me to completely remain separate from my preconceptions, but I could make my best effort to present my experiences in the field as honestly as possible. Early on in an anthropology student's education, she is taught that her first job will be to remain as open minded as possible when conducting research. This is implemented with instructions to preface work with a note that research was conducted through a n individual observer's eyes and was unavoidably colored by the researcher's experiences. In The Vulnerable Observer Ruth Behar (1996) points out what has become a truth of anthropology for me: the best work is done by researchers who have a close connect ion with their research. In the early days of anthropology, research was conducted in remote sites away from "civilized" society. Behar writes: The role that anthropology departments used to play as melting pots of vagabonds doing research in out of the wa y places, where no one else wanted to go, is lately being filled by international institutes and area studies programs. And now that anthropologists have largely abandoned their old role as experts on the "origins" of our modern discontents, and too many o f us are doing research at home, is there anything left that makes us unique? (1996:163) With my own research, I aimed to place the metaphorical magnifying glass right over Sarasota and learn about a cultural group that is thriving, although many people do not realize it is right in front of them. I was continually surprised by how it got more personal the deeper I got into my work and this scared me. My initial understanding of pursuing anthropological research was that my job was to make observations of the Deaf events I attended while making sure to keep my personal bias in check. However, that quickly became extraordinarily difficult because
! &" my topic is extremely close to me, and soon it seemed that my thesis topic kept popping up in my everyday life one way or another. Further, my work is not obscure for those close to me. I found that my research could easily become part of my daily life I would go out to conduct an interview in the afternoon and go grocery shopping and return home when it was ove r. When deciding on a thesis topic, I knew I wanted to use this project to improve myself as well as to provide new insights to the general public. It has always seemed to me that everyday surroundings are largely overlooked because many people do not obs erve what is going on around them and choose instead to research the news abroad or in other parts of the country. It is always my intention to observe the goings on around me in order to avoid being taken by surprise, but this project took me completely b y surprise. As I progressed deeper and deeper into my field research, I learned h ow present the Deaf community in Sarasota, Florida Yet many people overlook its presence. Once my fieldwork period had reached its end I realized that the local Deaf communit y had been all around me the entire time, counting students who have taken ASL, events at restaurants around Sarasota, people working around Sarasota whom I learned were deaf, and Deaf chats around Sarasota. The entire experience was very enlightening; no matter how well I knew my surroundings and what was available, there would always be more to learn. Conducting this ethnography transformed me. Never before had I seen such evidence that what is often viewed as a weakness can be turned into a person's gre atest strength. Not too long ago, being hard of hearing or deaf was grounds for being locked away in a mental institution, being used as test subjects for doctors seeking to cure
! deafness, or being placed into oral programs and forced to learn to speak. Ev ery now and then some were fortunate enough to be sent to residential schools and taught ASL. Several efforts were made to assimilate the Deaf community into the Hearing world, and all of them have failed. No matter what has been done in the past, Deaf com munities throughout the United States have thrived. Becoming friends with members of this community opened my mind to new methods of communication as well as new ways of viewing the world. It could be said that by learning to talk with my hands my eyes wer e able to understand more of human communication than when I had been focused on verbal speech. Explanation of the difference between English and American Sign Language It can be easy sometimes to take aspects of research for granted after being involve d in it for so long. Somewhere along my 18 month journey with ASL and Deaf culture, I forgot that it is not easy for many to understand that signed languages are foreign languages and not just a pantomimed versions of spoken languages. Part of the problem in understanding the difference between the two is that ASL signs are taught to hearing students using English words. For example, when teaching the sign for "apple" the teacher says, "This is the sign for apple.'" As a result, there is no clear line dra wn between the two languages because the signs become associated with English words in the student's head. Thus ASL can easily become a way of communicating in English using sign, rather than understanding the signs as a unique language separate from Engli sh. This is a risk a teacher takes when teaching hearing students ASL. Hearing
! &$ students of ASL do not seem able to really understand the difference until they have attended Deaf events and signed with people who are deaf and are native signers. After spe nding a couple of hours at a Deaf chat it should become apparent to the hearing ASL student that there is a huge difference between how fluent ASL signers communicate versus people speaking English. Fluent signers use their facial expressions and body lang uage in addition to signing with their hands in order to communicate with one another. By taking away communication with the voice, the restraints people develop by veiling facial expressions and tone of voice must fall away and now communication takes on a new dimension. Now there are no games; it is not possible to hide one's true emotions because they flow through how strongly one chooses to sign (which can convey anger or fear) or by signing with erratic motions (possibly conveying excitement, depending on the context). ASL has its own grammar for organizing thoughts; signs are also ordered differently than English words. For example, question words go at the end of a sentence. An example of this could be the sentence What time is it?' In ASL, it woul d be ordered TIME WHAT'. 1 In becoming immersed in ASL, I forgot that this language does not hold the same respect in every other person's eyes. The majority of people have grown up using verbal communication; having had no exposure to a signed language they believe it cannot carry the same power of communication. Many people have not formally studied linguistics or anything about the history and composition of language. One of the first components of language I was taught is that language signs are arbi trary concepts everything that is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 In transcribing ASL into English, all of the words are capitalized; the technical term is glossing
! &% understood about English had to be decided. The symbols constructed as our alphabet carry the meaning people give them today because people before us decided to associate the sounds of our language with written symbols a nd made them standardized. For example, the reason people understand that the written word "umbrella" means the same thing as when a person verbally says the word "umbrella" is because there is an agreed upon relationship between morphology and phonology, so written words can be spoken. This association between spoken words and written representations, which defines every language I have ever seen, carries similar associations in signed languages. Instead of verbal associations to words, physical signs made using the hands become the words that people associate with what they see and wish to communicate to one another. There are, however, aspects of ASL that can be understood without having studied the language because they are shared with the larger culture ; for example, negation in both Deaf culture and US culture can be communicated by shaking the head. Figure 2: That Deaf Guy comic explaining English and ASL
! && Gallaudet University Immersion Step one in conducting an ethnography of the Sarasota Deaf culture: learn American Sign Language. First obstacle: where should I go to learn ASL? The conclusion after talking it over with my professors was Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. During this two week program, my fellow classmates and I spent five hours a day, five days week in the classroom learning ASL. In the introductory ASL course, I was completely exhausted by the end of the two weeks. One thing many hearing people do not think about when they start to learn ASL is that it involves the entire body. The signer's hands will be tired from moving all day in order to speak; the eyes will be exhausted from watching speech in order to understand speech; and the facial muscles can also be exhausted because a lot of grammar in ASL is communicated throug h facial expressions. In order to become a good signer, none of these mechanics can be ignored, otherwise the person's "speech" will not be as understandable while signing. My immersion into the Deaf culture at Gallaudet became apparent while I was walki ng to the campus after leaving the metro station. On the way I met another student who was there for the immersion program and he helped me get checked in when we arrived. Navigating the GU campus by myself would have been terrifying the campus is huge an d confusing and for the entire two weeks all of us in the program had a running joke that the place was a giant maze and a minotaur was lurking somewhere waiting to attack when one of us got lost. Checking into my dormitory was my first real taste of how q uickly I needed to learn ASL. The students working at the main office of the dorm were all deaf and began signing to me as soon as the two of us walked in. All I could do was look to my new friend and the GU students and ask him for help, which he provided
! &' Help seemed to be the theme around our dorm; the higher level ASL students were willing to explain things to the ASL babies (the students in ASL I) and the students in ASL I were always helping each other as we tried to make sense of the homework. It seemed that many of us in ASL I followed similar routines: breakfast before class, class for two and a half hours, lunch, another two and a half hours of class, walk back to the dorms together while joking around about our deplorable ASL skills, pass ou t in our rooms until dinner, go to dinner together, homework for a few hours, pass out for the night, repeat in the morning. As I stated earlier, learning ASL is exhausting for the body and the mind so by the end of each class we needed to rest for a while In addition to classwork, my professor required us to attend two Deaf events, either on or off campus. Honestly, my initial thoughts on this part of the class requirements were that I would make a fool of myself. Luckily I am often wrong; by attending t he events with someone else from ASL I relieved the tension because there was at least one person there who knew how scary it was. The first Deaf event I went to was an LGBT social on the Gallaudet campus and the event was so enlightening; even though we w ere new signers we were accepted because we tried our best to sign and the other people at the event wanted us to enjoy ourselves and feel welcome. There were two highlights of this event; I met the president of GU and signed with him and his wife. Another student and I signed about where we were from and he told us we would be fine when we learned more and were brave for coming. The other highlight was that there was a GU student at the event who took time to sign with each of the ASL students. He was very patient with me when he asked where I was from and I took a while signing out the full name of my hometown.
! &( At the end of the first week, that Friday, a group of us from all ranges of the ASL classes went to an ASL poetry night at a club named Busboys an d Poets. After paying the five dollar cover charge and perusing the self described hipster bookshop, it was finally time to take our seats and the MCs began the show. This event was so welcoming to both hearing and deaf; there was an interpreter for the si gners so even though some of us were not fluent we still knew everything being said. And the show itself encompassed just about every sense a person has. Visually, there was the beautiful signing of each performer, the music was loud and signers chose song s with heavy bass so that it was possible not only to hear the songs but to feel them as well. Bringing ASL to New College After the fall 2011 semester began I decided to start an ASL club on the New College campus. Truth be told, I did not know what to expect. When I met with the group for the first Sunday meeting I was shocked that about fifteen people had come! Who knew so many people had an interest in ASL? As the semester continued, people came and went as our schedules took their toll, but it was a stounding that there were so many who either wanted to learn ASL or had taken it in high school and wanted to brush up their skills. Granted, I did not have the slightest clue as to what I was doing when I started this club. My main goal was seeing if ther e was any interest on campus and if there was anyone I could practice with. It seemed the next thing I knew I was teaching people ASL, when I barely knew anything of the language myself. As my class progressed and I slowly started to figure out how to be a teacher, I realized what I wanted to impart to my students. Yes, the whole point was that they learn
! &) ASL and whatever Deaf culture I could fit into our classes, but in my time learning to sign I came to a conclusion. What would matter the most to people at Deaf events and everyday meetings with Deaf people was not if my students knew all of the mechanics and grammar of ASL, but that they would use their hands and sign with people however they could. My goal in teaching people ASL was to give them the fre edom to use it. Even though I only had two weeks of formal instruction in ASL before I began teaching, my education had been characterized by being forced to talk with my hands every day I was in Washington, DC, and by the end of it I knew that my signing was not perfect, but I could communicate. At the conclusion of this thesis research I had a little over one year's worth of experience in ASL and only a small part of that had been spent in a classroom; I believe the most important things I learned about A SL were gained when I had to sign with others. So my classes became structured around conversational practice and I now teach my students how to sign about whatever they are interested in; by signing about their interests they remember how to sign and have greater joy in it. My original hope did not pan out as I had thought, but it did become something amazing. More advanced signers showed up at the club to practice but few lasted very long; the ones who did were friends who seemed to trust me to teach th em to sign, and accepted it when I told them to sit on their hands when they could not behave in class. 2 That all works out fine for me, teaching friends can be difficult but they will be forgiving of mistakes and one does not have to be as cautious when p ushing them to improve their skills. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Signing while an ASL teacher is talking verbally is as distracting as talking verbally because it provides a visual distraction from the lesson.
! '+ ASL class at USF Sarasota Manatee Campus Leading up to Spring 2012, it became clear to me that my ASL skills would benefit from more formal instruction so that I could become a better signer and a better teacher to m y students. Beginning in January 2012, I enrolled in an ASL I class at USF Sarasota Manatee. This course was partly a review of what I had learned at Gallaudet University, but also included new vocabulary and grammar rules I had never seen before. The cour se met every Monday throughout the Spring 2012 semester. My instructor Dr. Myra McPherson was a brilliant teacher who provided an efficient mixture of class time spent on instruction in new grammatical rules and assigning students to sign in pairs. No mat ter who my teacher has been, it seems the key method in helping students to actually know ASL is to make them practice in class and require them to pursue Deaf events in the community. My instructor at USF required students to attend two Deaf events, either as an observational activity, such as a talk given by a deaf person, or a s an interactive activity, such as the Friends Deaf Chats. One of the students who also went to these Deaf Chats was a girl named Nina, a hardworking woman in her early 20s who had recently gotten engaged. During this ASL course, I remember Nina telling me about her hectic schedule jumping between two jobs while fitting in her course load at USF. Even with such a busy schedule, Nina was able to make time to meet me at a McDonald's near the USF Sarasota Manatee campus one day in early September to talk abo ut Deaf culture. Nina and I met as ASL students in Spring 2012; a certain camaraderie builds from working together to practice signing together when everybody in the room doubts his or her ability to learn the language. The camaraderie builds further when each person attends her first Deaf event and is just
! '* relieved to see a familiar face among people who are already fluent in signing and one is still getting used to signing a simple, "Nice to meet you." Nina is a woman who found her connection to Deaf cult ure by being an ASL student. Nina: After taking classes I do, I feel more comfortable. Had I not taken those classes I wouldn't even think about it. Jessie: It wouldn't have been in the forefront? Nina: Yeah. I wouldn't have even thought about it. Jessie: So based on that, would you say that you became a member after you started learning sign language? Nina: Yeah, I think that's for anybody though; not just me. Interviewing Nina gave me the insight of another ASL student aside from my own experiences. S imilar to Nina, it was after going through my first ASL course that I began to feel I could have a place within the Deaf community. Learning about Deaf culture as a hearing student in an ASL I class creates a different understanding versus growing up in Deaf culture or learning about it after sustaining a hearing loss. From Nina's perspective, Deaf culture was to be understood by learning about each Deaf person's daily life, rather than only looking at how it differs from a Hearing person's daily life. Wh en I asked her if she though that ASL was the most important part of Deaf culture she said no. "I don't think so. I think the person themselves, like what they believe, how they see themselves in their own community is the most important. I think anybody c an be in it as long as they take the time to learn the culture, learn the language and understand they're people they're talking to." When a Hearing person sets out to learn about Deaf culture, it is a good idea to understand the difficulties Deaf people learn to handle every day, including how hearing people perceive them (which can cause new problems if they are seen as disabled), but Hearing people will also see how the Deaf fit into the world. The Deaf can be seen as
! '" more than an isolated population, i t is impossible for them to live completely separate from everyone else just as it is impossible for other cultural groups to live isolated from one another and so being able to understand Deaf culture is tied into understanding its interactions with i ts counterpart, Hearing culture. More important than knowing how the Hearing view the Deaf is how the Deaf view themselves, and then placing this understanding into a larger perspective that includes both the Deaf and Hearing. As Nina said during our inter view, "Don't look at them as their own little community even though they do see themselves like that. See them in the whole world group. They are people too, because they can't hear they're different but they're not that different. Take time to learn sign language to know the language of the culture." Though Nina is hearing, she believes that a person can find a place in Deaf culture if she is willing to learn ASL and communicate with the Deaf on their level not with an attitude of superiority. Sarasota' s Deaf community has been incredibly welcoming of ASL students who have come to fulfill class requirements. Even more people at the Sarasota Deaf events want these students to come back and take a place in the Deaf community, want them to understand that Hearing people are welcome as long as they practice the language. In interviewing Nina, I saw that she carries a very practical view of the Deaf community. She recognizes that the people function similarly to Hearing people, except that their communicati on is signed instead of verbal. Nina sees the Deaf as people who are part of the Sarasota community, not separate from it, and she acknowledges that individuals who have not had the same exposure to ASL would probably not see it as she does. "Like I think that if you have somebody who's taken the ASL classes and has had
! '# experience with it they see it one way. If you, say you didn't take the classes, you'd be like, What is Deaf culture?' You know like you would be like, "You have to know how to sign, have t o know all the words,' and that's a big part of it." As a Hearing ASL student she has gained a connection to Sarasota's Deaf community; she plans to keep this connection after her ASL classes are finished. My class included an optional activity: pretendin g to be a deaf person and going into a restaurant to see how people would react to me and how I would function in the situation. When I heard about this activity, I knew one of my own ASL students would love the chance to do it, or at least to help me do i t. In the end, the two of us decided to go for "Tapas Tuesday" at Ceviche, with him posing as my interpreter while I was "deaf." My partner for this had ethical problems on the way to Ceviche; he worried that it was wrong of us, as anthropology majors, to conduct this activity without first explaining what we were doing. He had a point, but having my ASL professor's permission to put on this act, so to speak, quieted my qualms. Conducting this activity was a more positive experience than I had hoped for. We sat at the bar and the bartender did excellent work and was very respectful of me. Many people do not know how to act when they meet a deaf person, but this bartender spoke directly to me rather than ignoring me. When my partner asked him if he realized I was deaf the bartender replied, "Yeah, I know but I figured you would interpret for me." To aid problems that might arise in communication, I brought a notebook with me in case my partner and I ran into trouble making ourselves understood while signing with each other. Oh boy, did it come in handy! Towards the end of dinner he asked me if I was excited about Legend of Korra being aired soon and when he realized I did not know
! '$ what he was talking about he had a very strong reacti on. It is one thing to be yelled at verbally or in ASL, but it is a whole new experience to be yelled at in both languages at the same time! Altogether it was an amusing moment within the whole experience, and my partner only started to calm down after I w rote a few expletives in my notebook and shoved the paper at him. Using my knowledge of Deaf culture, I shaped my behavior accordingly: I did not want to listen to him anymore so I turned away so I could not see him signing at me until he calmed down. Pa rticipating in this activity may not have put me in contact with other deaf people, but it helped me gain new understanding of how it feels to be deaf within a hearing environment. Luckily, in meeting the bartender I was able to experience the courtesy so me will give when they interact with someone who communicates in a different language. By having a friend there to act as my interpreter it was far less stressful and I knew I would be able to remain "in character" throughout dinner. The professor for th is ASL course, Myra McPherson used a good mixing of instruction and practice. After spending most of her life in contact with Deaf culture, Professor McPherson wants to get her students into the Deaf community rather than allowing it to remain as an abstr act concept. Not two weeks into the course, students were reporting sightings' of Deaf people they realized they saw all the time. Professor McPherson works hard making her students face the Deaf community and participate so that students have to get over that initial fear of getting out there. Unfortunately, many of her students do not keep going to the Deaf events once their semester is over, even though they have been accepted by everyone at the events. Professor McPherson explained:
! '% Think about itwhen the semester's over the Deaf community is sad because they feel like they've made friends and now you're gone and they, they want to help but they also accept you as a person. So one of the things I hear frequently from the Deaf community is when you send your students to them make them come back. I said I can't make them come back. They said well, we accept them finally. I mean you're getting good enough where you can communicate with them and you're gone. Though McPherson has done her best to teach her students Deaf etiquette so that they will be more comfortable, students still often view these Deaf events as simply a requirement in order to pass the class. Throughout our interview, I asked Professor McPherson about the important parts of ASL and Deaf culture and she pointed out aspects of their significance. ASL is completely unique from English, though there are some types of signing called SEE and PSE that do not follow the grammar of ASL. Jessie: Okay. Then what do you believe defines Deaf culture if you had to put a definition on it? Professor McPherson : Mmm...that's a tough one. Um, first of all their language is totally unique. Lot of hearing people think it's just English converted into sign and it's not. Um, Deaf culture has their own stories, they have their own way of defining stories. They have their own ways of raising their children totally differently than we do. They've been discriminated against, that's a part of the culture. The one thing I think they have in common is they don't want h earing people telling them what to do. I get that. In my estimation dealing with deaf people most of my life, well not all, but a lot of them feel, some of course feel very strongly that they know exactly who they are. They are often chosen to be discrimin ated against, especially in a work environment. I feel like they're as good as hearing people.' If I would have to say the generalities of Deaf culture, what I've just said. Professor McPherson told me about the differences between how Deaf and Hearing parents raise their children. She said Deaf parents will be more trusting of their children and do not nag quite as much as Hearing parents do. In addition to understanding Deaf culture, she contradicted my initial theory that ASL is the most important fac tor of Deaf
! '& culture. Instead, she pointed out that the boundaries of Deaf culture are shifting because technology, such as cochlear implants and cell phones, is having an influence. One other aspect that stood out to Professor McPherson is the pride that the Deaf have in their culture. A s she pointed out, she has never heard a member of the Hearing culture claim to be proud of being Hearing. "Hearing people don't so much hand down traditions in the forms of stories like deaf people do, so their traditions are unique and rich and their pride is much more defined than the hearing culture. I haven't seen a hearing person in a long time say I'm really proud of my culture'." Soon after my ASL I class at USF started my teacher gave us the option of attending a talk for her ASL II class by a member of the local Deaf community. It was by attending this talk that I found out about Deaf events within Sarasota. At the end of the talk, we were given fliers with the dates of the Friends Deaf Chats for the following tw o or three months. Unfortunately, because of an appointment for a job interview, I had to leave the talk about an hour and a half in. It was very embarrassing having to interrupt the question period so that I could take my leave, but several other ASL I st udents took my exit as their chance to duck out as well. One other organization my ASL professor made me aware of was the Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH). The CCDHH offers services to people throughout the area, including keepin g an up to date calendar of social events. People at the CCDHH work hard to help everyone who walks in find the accommodations he or she needs. The place is a great resource for finding information about Deaf culture, but this does not mean that everyone w ho works here counts himself
! '' as a member. Not everyone believes that anybody can join the Deaf culture; some feel that anyone could be involved while in it, but they are not necessarily members. Deb is in charge of the CCDHH, and she gave the opinion that a s a person who works with the Sarasota Deaf community the only people who can belong to Deaf culture are those who grew up in it. Unlike Nina, who says anyone can become a member of Deaf culture if she learn s ASL, Deb's involvement with Deaf culture has shaped her beliefs. She does include CODAs (children of Deaf adults), but Hearing people cannot find a permanent place in Deaf culture because, Deb said, they do not understand the culture they have never had to. Deb's standpoint is that that a person m ust grow up surrounded by Deaf culture in order to truly understand it. From her work among members of the Deaf community, Deb has recognized a hierarchy within Deaf cultur e that is important to know. This hierarchy can be broken down into those born dea f, late deafened, CODAs hard of hearing, and hearing, though it is a little surprising that hearing were included in her list. It seems hearing are included in the sense of hearing people who are involved in the Deaf community. The hierarchy might be visu alized with those born deaf to be at the top, and hearing ASL students lower down though I believe this hierarchy depends greatly on who is describing it. This hierarchy might be observable when first attending Deaf events in how people group together: often people associate with those whom they have previously met ASL students usually know each other before or meet at the events and gravitate towards one another, while Deaf people who know each other will also tend to sit together at events. Somethin g that surprised me about this interview was Deb telling me that she did not believe she was a very good source for insight into Deaf culture even though she
! '( works with members of the Deaf community on a daily basis. However, it seems that Deb has mainta ined a division between herself and her work. Possibly because of her work, and being hard of hearing herself, it has always been clear to her that there can be a dividing line between those with some level of hearing and those who are completely deaf. One division she sees concerns those who are late deafened, because they will often choose to remain comp letely within the hearing world; her work can involve finding assistance and services (such as audiologists, interpreters, closed caption services, and he aring aids) for those who remain within the Hearing world and do not learn about Deaf culture or ASL. She will aid them in finding lip reading groups, and whatever help they seek in adjusting to their hearing loss. She often finds herself helping individua ls who have lived their entire lives as hearing remain within the Hearing world rather than seeking a place within Deaf culture. Perhaps it is too difficult to find comfort in both worlds after living as a hearing person with no awareness of the Deaf commu nity or ASL. Dora, one of Deb's coworkers, presented me with the argument that it was possible to have a place in Deaf culture as a hearing person while growing up, but then to lose that place in adulthood. Dora grew up with a sister who is deaf and seeing how difficult it was for her sister to communicate with their family made her want to learn ASL. She made it clear that neither of her parents or anyone else in their family chose to learn ASL, or teach her sister to speak. I asked about her motivation du ring her youth to learn ASL and she recounted a story for me: it was a holiday and they had family visiting and her sister was home as well. Her sister wanted to tell their uncle something but she could not because they did not share any means of communica tion and in that moment Dora knew that her sister's relationship with her was the same as it was with her uncle.
! ') Her sister attended a residential school for the Deaf, so as Dora was growing up she began spending more and more time with her sister at her s chool during the summer, learning ASL and taking part in school events. Her perspective from this was that she was a member of Deaf culture when she was younger, but her adult life did not actively contain involvement with her local Deaf community so she l ost her connection to Deaf culture. When I posed the question of defining Deaf culture to Dora, she identified two components: language (ASL) and beliefs. The importance of growing up in Deaf culture came up again in this interview, and Dora made an unex pected distinction between Deaf culture and Deaf community. When I asked her if she felt Hearing people could become part of Deaf culture, she said no because they had to grow up immersed in Deaf culture in order to really understand it. Dora drew a line b etween the two because she views Deaf culture being something very personal that cannot be understood by the Hearing, only learned about it as secondary to their understanding as Hearing persons. From this perspective, Hearing people can learn to sign and be involved in the Deaf community, attend Deaf events, participate in the Deaf community, but will always be hearing persons coming in from the Hearing world. Sarasota Deaf Events Terrifying. Complete terror. Fear of making an irreversible mistake that would destroy this project before it had really started, dread that in my anxiety I would forget all of my Deaf etiquette and offend some of the people at the event. Absolute relief that a friend came with me so I would not have to walk in alone, though ne ither of us had a lot
! (+ of practice in conversation at this point. The complete sense of awkwardness at knowing that I am going to be that random gawking person who quite obviously does not belong in that setting. Relief that I already knew the person who or ganized the event so that at least one person there knew me and wanted me to be comfortable. Such nervousness when asking for permission to conduct my thesis research at these Deaf events that I could not get my hands to make sense as I attempted to sign and speak at the same time. Talk about being an overachiever I tripped over my words in two languages simultaneously. Through all of it, I wanted to turn around and run out the door and not step into another Deaf event until I was fluent in ASL and did n ot feel as if my hands were completely frozen every time I tried to say anything. However, I knew that I could not choose that path because I would not give up on this project. No matter how awkward this Deaf event was for me, it would be less awkward at t he next Deaf C hat. All of these emotions ran through my head throughout my first Sarasota Deaf event. When I walked into Primo's Ristorante with a friend whom I was teaching to sign, I confided that I was terrified of somehow messing up everything. What w as his sympathetic response to this? He thoughtfully informed me that I was being ridiculous since, unlike him, I knew what I was doing and was being silly. Even though I tripped over my hands over and over again, everything did go fine at the event. The t wo of us sat at a table with Lily and her friends, all of whom told me to calm down through the dinner. Lily has been in Deaf culture for more than 30 years, and clearly understands how scary it is when ASL students come to their first event. Not long aft er our arrival there was one of those embarrassing moments ASL students have all the time. I was talking with a friend about Japan, and I asked a woman
! (* at our table if I was signing Japan' correctly. She did not know so she asked another woman, who immed iately looked very embarrassed because how I had originally been taught to sign Japan' can easily be mixed up with the sign for vagina'. In order to avoid this confusion, she taught us another way of signing Japan'. Moments such as these remind hearing ASL students that they must retain some humility so they do not get scared away by embarrassing moments. Though it really is not very different from when a student in any language makes mistakes in vocabulary, it can be viewed as more embarrassing with ASL because of the physical nature of the language. Nobody wants to look like a fool because she made an awkward gesture instead of the graceful gestures fluent signers are able to make. Going back to my second Friends Deaf Chat was much easier. This event was also at Primo's, I stopped by with another friend who was also my ASL student. Perhaps it was because I wanted her to feel comfortable at these Deaf events, and did not want to add t o her anxiety by showing mine; whatev er it was, my anxiety and fear gone. At this event I most noticed how tight knit of a community I had brought my friend into. I looked around at all of the other tables around the restaurant and everywhere I looked peop le had big smiles on their faces as they were having rapid signed conversations. Being Deaf can be an isolating experience when the person has to live within the Hearing world if she does not live near any other Deaf people or does not works with anyone ex cept Hearing coworkers. Deaf events are among the few chances for many Deaf people within the community to gather and exchange news. These hours spent in various restaurants, moving from table to table as other friends arrive, patiently signing with young ASL students whose hands still shake a bit when fingerspelling their names and
! (" explaining conversations that were signed too fast for the ASL student to fully understand, all culminate in the sense of belonging that many in the Hearing world may take for g ranted because they are able to communicate with almost everyone they encounter daily. Another Deaf event that takes place every month is called the Tea and Coffee Chat, held at a local Starbucks. I attended this event alone, though it hardly felt like it Straight off when I walked in I immediately saw Lily; she stood up to hug me and we talked for a moment. We both agreed that life was always busy, and I signed about how my computer had broken again. After ordering my coffee, I looked around and introduc ed myself to the two women who were sitting across from me. I got to be a part of a signing conversation that took place from one end of a table to the other when a couple of people overheard my signing conversation where I was trying to describe New Coll ege. They had never heard of it. Among all of us on both ends of the table, we finally had it settled that New College is where USF used to have a campus, and one of the people at the event used to teach at USF and is now a professor at State College of Fl orida. Two people asked me if my goal was to become an interpreter, and I had to explain that I am planning to study speech language pathology (in the process learning the signs for speech' and language' and learning that I would just have to fingerspell pathology). Even though I stumbled over my explanation, both people were satisfied with my answer, much to my relief. Partway through my time at the event I realized there was another familiar face sitting across from me. Niki is an ASL student, but we d id not meet in class and we actually met for the second time at a Tea and Coffee Chat Deaf event. A few weeks later,
! (# we met for an interview at the Starbucks at the Ringling Museum. She said she finds her own position within the Deaf community more tenuous than what Nina described. Niki: Umm I would like to be a member of the Deaf culture but I don't feel as of yet I am Jessie: Okay. So maybe on the path to eventually feeling Niki: Eventually yeah, but yeah, I mean I'm only a student and I am still lear ning, umm, so but I don't feel part of it. For Niki, it is difficult to become a member of the Deaf culture while she is still a student and does not yet have a firm grasp on ASL. She is still getting used to the grammar and trying to remember how she is supposed to sign in correct ASL, and she is still working on being able to sign without thinking about it. For her, it is still a surprise when she is at Deaf events and people do not sign in the exact ASL grammar. "Yeah, you can see where it's signing or if they're doing, umm, there's the SEE method, S E E method And so it, you know, in places like I'm learning ASL but trying to flip back and forth. That is a little challenging You know, like, it's the way it's supposed to go, someone signing the way th ey're supposed to be speaking and that's easier for me." Niki has to make a choice that I have had to make before as well: do I try to sign everything in grammatically correct ASL or just sign as it comes to me in English? Will that be acceptable to the p eople I meet at these events? Niki explained, "And it's also like a matter of [how] to stop and at least if I'm signing in English I'm signing quicker. I have to slow down if I do it in ASL cause I'm like, okay, wait, topic comes first and then you know I have to think about what I'm saying I don't get to actually have a real conversation." It can be easier to just sign in mostly English grammar, but that comes at a cost as a student. This choice can mean losing sight of why a person decided to attend a D eaf
! ($ event where the opportunity for ASL practice is happening. P eople will stop a student and say that she is signing too "English." Concerning the hearing being in Deaf culture, they must be willing to know how to communicate and to know how a Deaf pers on's life works. Niki believes that as long as the hearing person cares, he or she has a chance to find a place in Deaf culture. "No I don't think they have to be deaf. I think that you have to have a willingness to communicate. You have to have a willing ness to see how their lives work. You have to care. I mean, I think that it all comes down to, do you care? And then you are allowed to be part of the community, you can't be part of the community if you don't care." Not all Deaf events go perfectly; somet imes friendships are made from joking about a bad mutual experience. During another Deaf Chat at Primo's, two of my ASL students and I managed to build rapport with the others at our table by joking about how slow the service had been. The fellow sitting o n my right and I alternated between him showing me pictures of his beautiful infant daughter on his smartphone and signing about how we were all desperately thirsty. During the hour it took before anyone came to take our order, and repeatedly asking for wa ter, all seven people at our table had a chance to introduce ourselves, and explain if we were ASL student s or where we worked. One thing my two students and I were certain about after signing with everyone for less than 20 minutes was that all of us neede d to practice our conversational skills a bit more. When our server did arrive at our table, it soon became clear that she was not experienced with serving deaf customers. Normally, when the server comes by to take orders at these events she stands by eve ry person so he or she can point to what is wanted on the menu. Usually the server is not familiar with ASL, so this simplifies matters and
! (% everybody is happy. Lily organizes the Friends Deaf Chat events and is normally very picky about which restaurants s he will use; she will not use a restaurant again if they have given substandard service to the people at a Deaf event. After receiving such a low level of service from the staff at Primo's during this event, Lily immediately decided to move the next event to another restaurant. Lily did not grow up in Deaf culture, it was when her hearing began to drop that she began learning ASL and becoming involved in her Deaf community. Lily remembers what it is like to first join the Deaf community. After going throug h that period all of us hearing go through when joining Deaf culture, Lily has found a home among the rest of the Deaf population within Sarasota and works hard to bridge the gap between the Deaf and Hearing. When I asked her to define Deaf culture from he r perspective, Lily summed it up this way, "Deaf culture is a smaller number of people in the area. They have their own way of unique communication. They have their own different things that they need, where hearing do not. [They] will do the same as the h earing, only they just can't hearThe signing is part of the Deaf culture. The really very important part of Deaf culture is signing." Something I asked everyone was if they felt a person had to be deaf in order to be a part of Deaf culture and Lily's an swer suggest that anyone who learns to sign can be included. "To be part of the Deaf culture you can be a CODA, a signer, I think you re ally need to know some signing cause how can you communicate fully without knowing sign with the Deaf culture? It will make the communication easier. Remember, I didn't really learn to sign until I was age 30, so after that is when I was involved in Deaf community,
! (& started learning sign." As long as the people she encounters are willing to work on their signing, Lily will always welcome them to Deaf events throughout Sarasota. Specifically looking at the involvement of hearing people in Deaf events, the key seems to be patience when seeking acceptance. Lily said: There are hearing people involved and part of the Deaf comm unity. Some of those just have an interest, they want to be involved. Some of those are CODA, meaning their parents are deaf. But at the same time, sometimes it's hard for Deaf to always accept the person when they just show up because sometimes if they lo ok like maybe a hearing person seems to be a goody goody two shoes, or maybe they make fun of the deaf person, the signers, or voices or whatever. Yes, it is easier for deaf people to find a permanent place within the Deaf community because there is a cle ar reason for them being there that goes beyond idle curiosity. However, this is not a reason for hearing people who experience genuine delight in signing and participating within the Deaf community to abandon any ambitions of finding a place. As Lily told me, "Patience will be very important because sometimes some are not, and the hearing will become frustrated. Just don't give up. Just keep continuing and they will see that you're serious, really want to be involved." I have learned several things from L ily, chief among them being her ability to keep smiling through every situation she faces in the Hearing and Deaf worlds. This is a skill that is incredibly important as a hearing person trying to live in both communities. Living in both is tough; the worl d is more than willing to throw obstacles in one's way to test if a person really wants it. People can be doubtful of one's motives; learning to communicate in spoken and manual languages is difficult; one's interest will be doubted; one's identity will be questioned (Are you in the Deaf culture? What are you doing here? You can hear and none of your family is Deaf). All manner of obstacles will appear once a person decides to live in both worlds. Key among the lessons Lily has taught me is the
! (' need to be p ersistent persistent with practicing my ASL and persistent in attending Deaf events so that I can find a way in the Deaf community. No matter what negative moments there may have been at the Deaf event, it was merely a background scene to all of us at my table. While I was signing with a man at the table, one of my students was having what he told me later was a gratifying moment: he was talking with one or two of the other people at the table and was able to tell when the other man was making fun of him, and was later able to tell a joke using ASL. Even with my limited experience with ASL (only a little more than one year) it brought me indescribable joy that I had been able to help him learn enough ASL to gain sufficient comfort in the language that he w as also able to enter the Deaf community and enjoy it. Deaf Awareness Expo On September 24, 2012, the CCDHH held an event that was open to the public. Thankfully, I arrived about a minute before the first lecture started. Here was a lesson in waking up when the alarm clock goes off instead of hitting snooze again and again. Getting to the CCDHH would usually involve riding one bus to the Sarasota transfer station and then getting another bus that goes right by the CCDHH. However, because I was certain th at I was running late and did not have time to wait for the next bus, I decided to walk from the transfer station. As I said, I did reach the event just in time, though it involved taking three or four wrong turns, ending up at a dead end street, and nearl y calling a friend in order to screech into the phone, "I just got lost on what should have been a ten minute walk, help me!" I did figure it out and was calm and composed by the time I walked in.
! (( Walking through the doors of the correct building, I was immediately greeted by some of the volunteers and two of us shared a moment of me signing to a woman because I did not know if she were hearing or deaf and her signing back to me and speaking. These moments happen a lot at Deaf events as a hearing person because there is always a worry of not wanting to seem ignorant by verbally speaking instead of signing from the start, and it is almost always impossible to tell if someone is deaf or hearing until t he two people communicate. Usually it is a quick, slightly awkward, moment that both people have a laugh over while introducing themselves. This volunteer and I realized that we can both hear and were then more comfortable while she helped me get signed in I signed "Thank you" before walking into the main room for lectures and found a seat. Chris Wagner, President of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), took his place at the front of the room and began to address the group. I sat there nearly ove rwhelmed with how accommodating this event was for both hearing and deaf people. First, walking in and being helped by a hearing volunteer who could also sign, then with Wagner (who is Deaf) holding a microphone in one hand in order to verbally deliver his presentation while signing with his other hand. Sign language interpreters were presenting Wagner's speech also so that everyone would be able to understand everything. And on top of this, in order to accommodate anyone who was hard of hearing and did not understand ASL, there was a technician who transcribed all of the speeches into a closed captioning program projected onto a screen behind the NAD president. There was no way anyone there would not have been able to communicate. This all encompassing effo rt made a clear point to me: for this event the Deaf community was willing to provide communicative accommodations for all levels of hearing and deafness.
! () I found myself wondering, if the Deaf community was so willing to ease any anxiety for hearing people walking in for the first time, then why has it been so difficult for the Hearing community to make equal accommodations for all levels of deafness? Wagner presented a lot of information in the hour he had to speak. The first point at the front of my mem ory is when he said people do not complain enough though this statement had a second part to it. He quickly followed up by saying that anyone who wanted to complain about the state of things also had to be a part of the collaboration, and then it was alr ight to complain all day long. He made it clear that everyone who wanted to complain about the state of Deaf affairs in the Hearing world needed to know that it was a long battle, not something that could be won overnight. For example, he said, NAD had bee n engaged in a legal battle with Netflix for two years to get them to supply closed captions for all of its movie options, but this would not have happened if NAD had not stayed diligent in its fight to create this change and to have as many people in the fight as possible. One point that came up all day, both in these presentations and when talking with people, was that creating su ch changes is a numbers game. In order to make changes happen, organizations such as NAD need as many people as possible to get involved. NAD employs nine full time and three part time employees and has about 10,000 members throughout the country. Along wi th this, there are 50 other organizations throughout the US that can work together to promote changes. The other key point I took from Wagner's presentation was concern that deaf children be aware of their options. Many times it is a deaf child's parents who make the decisions about how their child will be educated (whether she will be mainstreamed or attend a residential school) and what language she will learn first (will she be taught
! )+ ASL, only be taught to lip read, or will she be taught both?). Wagne r argued for how important it is that deaf children be made aware of the options available to them. Even though parents will have the final say in how the child will be educated, the child should at least know all options available to her and how to seek a dditional help. Wagner argued that deaf children also need to be made aware of the language choices available to them, meaning that deaf children should be allowed to learn ASL, as well as English; deaf children should not be deprived of using ASL if that is their language preference. Wagner spoke about something I think is incredibly important in understanding how important Deaf culture is to its members. He said that in the two months he had been President of NAD, it had amazed him how so many people he spoke with told him they lived in constant fear, fear that everything that had been achieved for the Deaf would suddenly go away. Try imagining this: waking up and finding all of this minority group's rights that had been so hard won had been taken away o n a whim. His point about this fear is that it must motivate everyone involved to commit themselves to protecting and procuring services for every single deaf and hard of hearing person. During the break between presentations, vendors who had set up shop in another room displayed a wide range of products and services. The first vendor I spoke with was a representative for a cochlear implant company. Even though I am hearing, he took the time to explain how their model of the cochlear implant works, the imp lantation process, and gave me a pamphlet with all of the information in it as well as some ear plugs that they were handing out because everyone can always use some ear plugs. A representative of an interpreter service was there, smiling at everyone who stopped by the table. At a table that was very busy, a woman was selling products for the deaf, including alarm
! )* clocks that vibrate and have flashing lights, smoke detectors that vibrate and have flashing lights, and attachments for phones that flash ligh ts to alert the deaf person that the phone is ringing. At another table was a pair who have a Tai Chi group in Tampa; they were advertising for an event they were holding soon after the Deaf Awareness Expo. A man and a woman represented the Tai Chi group; the man is deaf and he has a service dog. During one of the breaks between presentations they were doing a demonstration outside, with the man leading the group. When a space in the lines opened up I joined them; the movements were incredibly relaxing. The man's service dog was very well behaved; it sat down against the building's wall and watched th e volunteers try to follow the Tai C hi movements. The second presentation was about services for the hard of hearing. It started off with an interesting statis tic: 85 percent of people experiencing hearing loss in the US are not receiving treatment. What results from not treating hearing loss is unsettling: brain deafness (caused by damage to the auditory nerve, the brain is able to hear sounds but has difficult y understanding them), risk of tinnitus (the brain starts to hear phantom sounds), higher risk of dementia, and an increased risk of falling because the center of equilibrium is off. Most interesting to me was the information about the effects of hearing loss on the brain. Hearing happens from the brain, the ears relay the sound and the brain processes the sound. Also, listening and hearing are learned exercises; every person learns what each sound in her primary language means, how to listen to the langua ge (how to process each phoneme and understand the meanings each carries). But when parts of the ear cease to work correctly, the functioning in the brain changes and it leads to a loss of clarity in
! )" understanding. This is a side effect of hearing l oss tha t I have also dealt with. O ften the problem people experience is telling someone, "No, you do not need to speak louder! I can hear you, but I cannot understand what you are saying." People with this problem of brain deafness can reverse some of the effects by using hearing aids and oral rehabilitation. Once the second presentation was complete, the CCDHH had the event catered by Subway and people could choose either a ham or turkey sub, which came with potato chips and a canned soda of their choice. This w as a chance for friends to mingle and catch up with one another, and look around at what the vendors had brought. June McMahon, President of Florida Association of the Deaf ( FAD ) gave the final presentation of the Deaf Awareness Expo. FAD's mission stateme nt exp resses aims similar to those of NAD: to promote, protect, and preserve the right s of equality for the Deaf and hard of h earing. As a means of connecting with members of FAD and people with an interest in the group, McMahon posts a vlog on the front p age of FAD's website. T he vlog is done in ASL with a transcription in English directly below the video. In the vlog she provides an update of the events she has attended across Florida, people she has met with, and upcoming FAD events that are open to the public. One of the important statements in her presentation was that anyone who is deaf must be an advocate for oneself; everyone needs to take part in the work being done to further Deaf interests in Florida. Unlike NAD, which has some paid positions, FA D has no home office and is composed entirely of volunteers. Part of FAD's purpose is to advocate for Deaf individuals, one example given in the presentation was lawsuits against businesses that had refused to provide an ASL interpreter for Deaf individual s.
! )# Employers are legally required to provide an interpreter for any Deaf person who is involved in the business. During the last talk of the Deaf Awareness Expo I was sitting in a chair against the wall at the back of the room taking notes when someone sa t down and started speaking to me. This man asked me if I worked for a newspaper; I explained that I was a student at New College and writing my thesis on Deaf culture. Right as I said this, the final speaker began to talk and this man said he had somethin g to tell me after it was over. When we started talking again we made our introductions and realized that both of us could benefit the other: more information for my thesis research for me, and another person to spread the word about Deaf culture through t he community for him Allen agreed to an interview. This interview also helped me to finally find a way to handle the main problem I have with my hearing loss talking too fast. Because I knew that Allen would have to read my lips throughout the interview I remembered to speak clearly and not rush through it. Maybe a week after the Deaf Awareness Expo the two of us met at Pastry Art to talk, and here is where fieldwork reached its apex in a most unexpected way. Until this interview, everything had been f airly consistent : I met with my contact, asked him or her questions, and we went our separate ways. My interview with Allen followed a similar pattern, but when I walked away from this interview I felt a sense of completion. W hile I still had a lot to lear n about Deaf culture, I now felt that I had a well rounded experience. Even though Allen has never learned ASL, he has a very strong connection to Deaf culture and wants deaf children to have every opportunity in their education. Allen was diagnosed as h ard of hearing when he was three years old; he attended an excellent
! )$ oralist school for the Deaf and the benefits it has had for him are clear: his speech skills are excellent and he is a very good lip reader. As a result of Allen not being exposed to sign language, and instead learning to be a deaf person able to work within the Hearing world, he has seen how beneficial it was for him to have to learn to speak and lip read and believes that it is important for deaf children to be taught to lip read (at the very least) and to have speech therapy so they will not be limited in the Hearing world. Allen does live within Deaf culture, and when I asked him to define it he identified it as two camps: the first is the hard core group that is all about ASL, the sec ond group will accept anybody who does her best to immerse herself in Deaf culture by learning to sign and attending Deaf events. Concerning a hearing person coming into Deaf culture, it depends on the level of involvement each person is willing to have, h e explained. The more time a hearing person is willing to put into the experience, the more immersed she will become in Deaf culture. Allen pointed out to me that a hearing person, such as myself, would have an easier time becoming immersed in the Deaf com munity if I was able to surround myself with people who are also involved in it and can sign with me. Allen grew up in the UK and for him it was easier to recognize himself as Deaf; because of England's national healthcare it was never a pro blem going to audiologists. From what he told me, the US is lagging about 40 years behind in technology that has become commonplace throughout Europe, for example, the T C oil. In Sarasota, committees of advocates for the deaf are working to make the T Coil sign as commonplace as the "handicapped" sign is. The T Coil is a system that, when installed, carries sound all around a room. Most hearing aids are T Coil capable and when people
! )% activate the T Coil on their hearing aids, sound s from all around the room come in clearly. Currently there are about forty locations within Sarasota with T Coil; Allen said this is something that has been common around Europe for forty years. Reflecting on my interviews and p articipant observation events, I found I had learne d a great deal. There was no clear cut list of qualities that made a deaf or hearing person a member of Deaf culture. Instead, there were detailed recollections and opinions from each person about whether he or she was a member of the Deaf community, and h ow intimately involved he or she was. One common theme that ran through my interviews was a deep respect for Deaf culture, whether or not individuals viewed themselves as members of the Deaf community.
! )& Conclusion "Dig a little deeper. Think of something that we've never thought of before" Winnie the Pooh When I began looking for my thesis project I knew that I wanted to gain a better understanding of life in the United States. With my professor's blessing and encouragement I set out in the summer of 2011 on my journey to understand Deaf culture. Even though I did not become fluent in ASL immediately, by my return to New College the following Fall term I had gained something that people trying to learn a la nguage can sometimes take years to acquire: I had the confidence that I could communicate with other signers even though I was not fluent, and still have not reached fluency. With that knowledge I could brave using ASL rather than being afraid to make myse lf talk with my hands. Becoming an ASL teacher in Fall 2011 taught me much more than I believe I taught my students: I learned about being a leader because I had to make decisions about which signs to teach them and how to help them gain confidence in thei r signing. I also tried to find ways to entice them to joining me at Deaf events so they would get the practice in signing that only comes from communicating with a natural signer. Spring 2012 came and I was atten ding Deaf events in Sarasota During thes e events I learned about so much more than just Deaf culture and ASL; I learned about the acceptance people find in Deaf culture, and I learned that success was based on perseverance beyond mistakes made. Have a laugh at oneself and keep signing. The peopl e I met at these events, both hearing and deaf, were unendingly patient in helping me to sign in order to express my ideas rather than having to resort to my verbal voice.
! )' My research has revealed numerous opinions about Deaf culture, and the conclusion I have drawn from my personal observations is that the level of acceptance found in being a part of local Deaf communities gives people high levels of satisfaction. It becomes worth it to state their place in the Deaf community. Even though this cultural m inority is a stigmatized group, it seems that the acceptance both its Deaf and Hearing members find brings a joy many people do not find in other communities. This ethnography can only offer observations of Deaf culture from the perspective of a hearing person. Initially my hope had been to present my thoughts as a deaf individual within the Deaf community, based in part on my own partial hearing loss. However, this hope reflects my ignorance before conducting the research. Having neither grown up deaf or within the Deaf community, I am only able to present my findings from speaking to members of the Deaf community and my understandings of them as they are influenced by my own life as a hearing person. No matter how much time I spend in the Deaf community in the future, I will always be a woman who has grown up in the hearing world and came into the Deaf community as a young adult. What I am able to present to readers of this ethnography is simple: observations of a group of people who have accepted each ot her into their social circles because they share a method of communication that requires its users to speak with their hands instead of with their mouth s James and Lesley Milroy discuss the differences between spoken and written English, one difference b eing the social and formal functions of each form:
! )( We have already indicated that speech and writing have different functions Conversational speech is social, and everyday conversation is an exchange between participants: speech is used to pass the ti me of day (It's a pleasant evening isn't it?'), to request actions (Put your coat on the hanger')But speech is ephemeral it dies away as soon as it is uttered and the basic function of writing is to overcome to some extent the impermanence of speech Written language has traditionally been used to keep records of all kinds, and written documents have facilitated communication over long distances and long periods of time. Our access to history is mainly through writing. (1985:65) In relation to Deaf culture, this quote is important because it was through learning to read and write that the members of Deaf culture were able to document their own accounts of Deaf history, and this prevented Deaf history from being presented from a Hearing perspective on ly. Accepting the need to be bilingual as a Deaf person in the Hearing USA meant that Deaf historians could represent their history in writing in addition to passing on the history in ASL. I cannot definitively say if there is one factor that brings people together in Deaf culture. There seem to be many factors, the ability to communicate and the camaraderie being the most prominent. For those people I met who had grown up in Deaf culture, ASL was not needed to show their connection because they could share similar experiences of being excluded from the main Hearing culture. However, for those who are Hearing entering the Deaf community, knowledge of ASL provides great aid in proving they are making attempts to understand Deaf culture and its language. Ove r the course of this thesis process, my research kept becoming more entwined in my life instead of something that I could walk away from when it was time to analyze my findings. Perhaps it is because I decided to conduct my research in Sarasota, though per haps not. Anthropology is changing; more fieldwork is set closer to home instead of in far away locations. More social scientists are studying their everyday surroundings; one
! )) example is Annette La reau, a sociologist, who wrote Unequal Childhood s: Class, R ace, and Family Life (2011), in which she studied observed how parents chose to raise their children, and which values they reinforced as more important Though it is difficult, this thesis project has taught me the value of studying my own environment and understanding it before looking beyond. A common phrase in several of the anthropology courses I took at New College was "make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange." I believe it will guide me in any future work I conduct in anthropology; I know it is significant to study parts of US society that are often taken for granted or overlooked and place them in the foreground. Anthropologists such as Ruth Behar (1996) have addressed the issue of anthropology becoming personal, and I believe it is bet ter to acknowledge and understand how one person can understand a culture. Most ethnographies today address the influence of personal interpretations, but few acknowledge how it can enhance the research. Throughout my fieldwork there were constantly moment s that made the research that much richer, made the people I was interviewing that much more real. Touring Ringling Museum with Niki after our interview and hearing about her trip to Italy, or one of my ASL students being able to joke with people at a Deaf event, or having someone I had just met at a Deaf event show me pictures of his beautiful infant daughter all of these moments served to remind me that people live full lives whether they are Hearing or Deaf. All of them have families and jobs, and ever y single one of them lives in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. Hopefully, my research will serve to encourage members of the Hearing community to take a second look at the Deaf community that lives enmeshed with them.
! *++ A great deal of research has been done b y Hearing researchers about the Deaf in understanding their history, but there has not been very much research on entering the Deaf community with the same level of humility as when entering a culture in another country. People who are Hearing cannot enter the Deaf community successfully with any feelings of superiority because they can hear; the Deaf have no desire to be pitied by the Hearing. They will, however, accept those Hearing persons who enter with the intention of understanding the Deaf community rather than judging it. Future anthropological research could explore the categorization of people who enter Deaf culture. During my research, a few of my contacts mentioned a hierarchy: people who are born deaf, late deafened, CODAs (Child of Deaf Adult ), and hearing people who gain an interest in Deaf culture. Most of the research that has already been conducted on Deaf culture generalizes about its members rather than examining the differences made by the age at which a person enters Deaf culture. Ethn ographic research on the differences among being born Deaf and with a Deaf family, born deaf in a Hearing family and joining Deaf culture in adulthood, or being Hearing and becoming involved in Deaf culture could provide greater insight for all parties. An thropological research can provide understanding of what individuals from each level of the hierarchy experience as they enter Deaf culture. Rather than focusing on the general view, future ethnographic research could give insight into the unique experienc es people encounter while entering Deaf culture. This could provide a more organic understanding of Deaf culture, and shatter any remaining images the uninformed may carry about members of Deaf culture being a group of disabled individuals.
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! *+& Salzmann, Zdenek 2007 Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. USA: Westview Press Senghas, Richard, and Leila Monaghan 2002 Signs of Their Times: Deaf Communities and the Culture of Language. Annual Review of Anthropology Van Cleve, John Vickrey and Barry A. Crouch 1989 A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press Wood, Sharon Kay & Marjoriebelle S. Holcomb 1989 Deaf Women at Vanguard of History. In A Kaleidoscope of Deaf America. Gary W. Olsen and Frank R Turk and Marvin T. Miller, eds. Pp.20 21. National Association of the Deaf. Whyte, William Foote 1996 On the Evolution of Street Corner Society. In Journeys Through Ethnography: Realistic Accounts of Fieldwork. Annette Lareau and Jeffrey Shultz, eds. Pp. 11 73. USA: Westview Press