Heard of Hearing, Hear Impaired, Dumb, Deaf?

The question, which is anticipated in this introductory title, brings to a discussion different representations about deafness. After all, what is it to be deaf?

Commonly, deafness is associated with a deficient, incapacitating, pathological condition that must be “healed” through speech therapies, auditory training and hearing[1] behaviors. But on the part of many deaf and hearing people related to deaf causes, what is seen and what is understood about deafness?

Today, new flags are defended and conquered by the deaf communities. From diversity to difference (“difference” in its radical meaning, and not as mere discursive continuity of disability), from the demands of speech to the recognition of sign languages, from rehabilitation to the appreciation of one’s own cultural identity, and from the inculcation of hearing patterns to the appreciation of the “Deaf being”, a series of ruptures have been emphasized in the last decades.

New terms are proposed, old ideas are revised. The urgency of other looks is evidenced by the failure perpetrated by old policies of inclusion, which imply – and implied – countless losses for many deaf people.

From these perspectives, deafness goes beyond the boundaries of the biomedical area and moves to the field of Cultural Studies. “Being Deaf” is perceived as one of the ways of existence, based on visual experience and the use of visual-motor languages (gestural languages). At no other time was it spoken so much, nor was it signed[2] so often on deaf cultures.

In this scenario drawn upon new Deaf postulates, thousands of cultural productions (scattered among the theater, literature, fine arts, cinema, dance, music, etc.) are shared among many deaf communities. Every day, new cultural apparatuses arise, new organizations and movements are consolidated, new works are produced, new symbols and meanings are spread, and if this effervescence promotes the expansion and empowerment of deaf cultures and communities, why, then, is little seen about these productions in the daily life of most of the hearing population? If inclusion is the current word, why are the cultural artifacts of these groups still so little known, apart from a shallow and often stereotyped vision?

These and other questions motivate the maintenance of this blog, which aims to highlight the richness and complexity of deaf identities, communities and cultures.

The lexical choices and the intentional repetition of the word “deaf” (or “Deaf”, with the initial capital letter) are emphasized in the texts and posts published here, without the stylistic preoccupation of looking for synonyms to avoid the many apparitions of word.

“Deaf” in distinction from the “hearing impaired” (one who does not recognize deaf cultural practices and who does not express a Deaf identity) is a word used and preferred by many Deaf subjects and, contrary to what some believe, it does not sound derogatory or offensive.

Also, the author’s “hearing” condition, which, although familiar with the deaf communities (especially the Brazilian and American ones), is still struggling through a daily effort of careful reflection, against a series of prejudices that are sometimes revealed underlying speeches and gestures: investigating, posting and discussing is thus moving in the direction of sketching, exposing and undoing old beliefs still ennobled (and foggy) in the acts and looks of this dilettante blogger-researcher.

[1] Hearing – in this semantic universe, are all people who “hear” and who experience the world also through hearing.
[2] Signing as the act of enunciation in sign languages.

About the author:
picMy name is Renato Da Silva, I am from Brazil and living in the US since 2015. I am completely passionate about languages, mainly the Sign Language.
I am an interpreter of the Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS), and I hope to became an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter as well.
Neither I nor anyone in my family are deaf or hard of hearing, but I am totally into learning everything regarding the deaf universe to be able to contribute in breaking paradigms, and to help to put an end in the prejudice.
If you wish, you can contact me at renato_heinzen@hotmail.com.


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