Dr. Gioia Woods
November 15, 2014
A Look Into DeafCulture
II. DEAFNESS AS IMPAIRMENT
III. PSYCHO-SOCIAL THEORIES OF GROUP DYNAMICS
IV. APPLICATIONS OF PSYCHO-SOCIAL THEORIES TO DEAF CULTURE
The aim of this research is to use theories of psycho-social analysis of stigma, language and prejudice to examine the causes that lend to the evolution of deafness from a stigma to a cultural identity. *This research is not intentionalinassisting or contradicting the life and quality of Deaf culture. Instead, it searches to examine the question: “How does deafness, which has many times before been considered as a disability, become the “root” for cultural identification?”Theories about the function of stigma, language and prejudice in the arrangement and maintenance of subjective and socialindividuality will be explored. Theseprinciples will be dedicated to the dispute of deafness as culture: the role of the stigma as a disability, the utility of sign language, and prejudice against hearing persons in the betterment of the Deaf culture.*
DEAFNESS AS ANIMPAIRMENT
From aview that deafness is adisability, the lack of ability to hear hinders with a person’s sensitivity to react to environmental prompts, to communicate, and to experiencefacets of “mainstream culture” such as music. The weakening effects of deafness can be diminished through the use of technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, and through the use of oralism, being able to speak and visually read others’ speech (Higgins, 1990; Kronick, 1990). *The person is a member of a hereditary and socialattribute that does not consider the lacking to hear an essential part of its day-to-day functioning. Rather, there are those who reason that the very idea of culture is unstructured, that each of us lives in a number of fellowships within which we must act (Turner, 1994). Consequently, the person who is deaf must discover to function as a member of a family and societyfor which deafness is a disease in order to belong and lend to these groups (Higgins, 1990; James; Turner). *
Deafness As Pathology
Mainlywithin the last few decades, advocatesof deafness as a culture have statedthat deafness is not a disease and consequentlydoes not need to be fixed (Butler, Skelton & Valentine, 2001; Dolnick, 1993; Lane, 1992, 1997; Padden & Humphries, 1988; Wilcox 1989). Supportersof deafness as a way of lifeseparate their culture by using the capital “D”,whilethe lower case “d”indicatesdeafness as a pathology (Dolnick, 1993). From this viewpoint, aperson who cannot hear is actuallya member of a rich socialheritage that separates a person from any “non-Deaf” members of their family or society
(Jones, 2002). “Pure Deaf” is then a term to signify 100% involvement within this culture, signified by the “D” and will later be mentioned and discussed. Offered in E. Dolnick’s article is an admirableprécisof the “Deaf culture”argument. “Families with parent and child fit into different traditions”, says Dolnick, “And deaf children obtaina sense of cultural uniquenessfrom their equalsrather than their parents” (p. 38). In applying this explanationto Deaf culture,claiming that Deaf people actsimilarly, we must assume they use the same language and share the identical beliefs (Jones, 2002). The opinionof Deaf as a culture maintainsthat adults and children who unable to hear are cut offfrom the majoritybecause interactionwith hearing persons will always be arduous(Butler, Skelton & Valentine, 2001; Dolnick, 1993; Fletcher, 1988; Foster, 1988; Marschark, 1993; Padden & Humphries, 1988; Wilcox, 1989). *
GROUP DYNAMICS AND PSYCHO-SOCIAL THEORIES
So as to considerthe Deaf culture argumentfrom a psycho-social viewpoint, it is essentialto examine the existingidearelating to“in-group” and “out-group”studies. The following investigationsexamine“some” of the psycho-social concepts that scrutinize the responsibilityof stigma, language, and prejudice in the procedure of group recognition.*
A person becomes branded in a sense “when they arelessened in our minds from a whole and usual person to a blemished, disregardedone” (Goffman, 1997). Stigma seems to facilitate a part in “in-group”creation, especiallyin minority group development. This is notdissimilarin Deaf recognition. One justificationfor these occurrencesis founded on the hypothesis that everypersonstrives to achieve positive self-esteem (Crocker). *Because the notion of stigma can be adverse, as it disconnects the individual from the standard, apersonneeds re-define the shame in order topreserveconfident self-esteem. One way to contest the non-ideal foundation of labeling is to transform the stigma from anattribute of intimate identity to anorigin of social identity. (p. 481)*
The practice of using Sign Language, as a first language, has been the basisthat which many of the “pure” Deaf culture backing has been founded. The using of Sign Language is so significant to the “pure” Deaf society that any allegedrisk to the use of Sign Language is perceived as a threat to the worth of the Deaf culture. Such is an example of how members of the Deaf culture have long condemned the use of cochlear implants. In an article of the National Association Of the Deaf (NAD) published in 1990, there is anopinion paper suggesting that cochlear implants directparents and their deaf children away from the Deaf culture completely. Lane (1992) claims that children who obtain cochlear implants suffer a set back in gaining Sign Language abilities and in creating an identity as a deaf person and that children of hearing who are raised vocallyencounter “cultural vagrancy” (p. 226-228).* Those who use Sign Language as a first language imagine that they make up a dialectal subgroup and that Sign Language indicates group membership. Sign Language is perceived as examples of morals that arepassed on across generations (Dolnick, 1993; Padden & Humphries 1988; Wilcox, 1989). Hence, Sign Language epitomizes a common tradition, and thus a cultural identity.*
Where stigma is a label, prejudice is an attitude (Herek & Capitanio, 1999). Devine (1995) states that prejudice “…is commonly defined as negative feeling toward persons based solely on their group membership” (p. 486). Prejudice appears to underline the separation of individuals into “in-groups” and “out-groups” (Brewer, Manzi & Shaw 1993; Crocker, Blaine & Luhtanen 1993; Mullen, Brown & Smith, 1992), separating “us” from “them.” Prejudice against a certain group by others functions as an act of cohesion among persons who belong to that group. Any trait that group members share may be perceived by people in that group as being positive (Crocker, Blaine & Luhtanen, 1993).*
APPLICATIONS OF PSYCHO-SOCIAL THEORIES
Disability and Stigma
If being deaf is perceived as a disability, then persons who are deaf convey with them the shame of requiring a “mainstream” human attribute. As arguedbefore, a person who is defamednormallyrequiresseeing the humiliation as encouragingin order to preserve high self-value. Anindividual who is deaf is likely to be at ease with contemporarieswho are deaf because within the “alike” group being denounced as “deaf” is not a basis of one’s part within the group (Foster and Brown, 1988).*In fact, asignificantfeature of assessing deafness from a cultural paradigmis the divisionfrom the concept of non- normalcyand incapacity. Even thoughsupporters of the Deaf culture state that they are united together by the familiarityof deafness, they also claim that deafness does not indicatea loss, but a unique view of the world (Dolnick, 1993; Padden & Humphries, 1988; Lane, 1992; Wilcox, 1989). *One of the reasons providedfor this regardof rift is that deaf people cannot be entirelyassimilatedinto the mainstream (Lane, 1992; Padden & Humphries, 1988; Wilcox, 1989). This seemingresolutionof the hearing world to the world of the Deaf may be a reason why Deaf people have decided to respondagainst the idealsof much of the mainstream that makesdeafness as disability. *
Prejudice Against the Hearing
The insistenceof some advocatesof the Deaf culture upon rejecting anyone who is seen as being “hearing” is anessential issue in that it mightclarify why many people considered as “hearing”opposethe Deaf culture model. For example, “hearing” has a negative connotation as used by members of the Deaf culture (James & Parton, 1991). This predictionof un-favoredtraitsonto anyone “outside” of the culture could be said to establishprejudice. *
Also there appears to be biasin opposition hearing persons in a broad significanceas well (Jones, 2002). For instance, some advocates of the Deaf culture propose that Deaf persons have greaterbonds with the Deaf culture instead of with their own families and hearing society (Dolnick, 1993). There are even those who admit that they experience parental obligations for Deaf children, particularlythose that are born to hearing parents, that one way or anotherthe Deaf culture is more of a parental figure to a Deaf child than the child’s own hearing family. “So then why does there have to be particularly a strong effect in the Deaf community critical against hearing world?”*Seeing that deafness is considered by society as a disability and that people who cannot hear find it challenging to communicate and fully assimilate with the conventional, the segregation of the “hearing” from Deaf culture strengthensthe worth of membership to the Deaf culture. The more distinct the lines between of “out” and “in”, the better the regard and potentialof the group. You could even say that to some level preconceptionis requiredso as to corroborateand support the acceptabilityof the Deaf culture. Such a declarationis contradictorywhen one takes into accountthat the notion of Deaf culture developed in part because of the opinionspredicted upon deafness by society.
In the instance of Deaf culture, Deaf people strive to differentiate themselves from the collectiveidea of disability entirely,thuseradicating the slurring label. By using Sign Language, it also differentiates itsfollowers of the Deaf culture from the mainstreamsocial group. Supporters of Deaf culture believe that Sign Language can be associated with other languages that are significantto group identification and the continuation of tradition (Jones, 2002). The weight on the meaning of Sign Language has developedin the disappointmentof some Deaf people to persons who are not “pure” users of the language and into their culture. This absenceof recognition and observation of “hearing”’ people as “outlanders”, show biastowardpersons who are not affiliatedwith the Deaf culture and will increase the value of membership to the culture.
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