The Continuum of Ishara: Deaf-Hearing Gesture in Mumbai

Autor/a: KUSTERS, Annelies; SAHASRABUDHE, Sujit
Año: 2015
Editorial: VII Deaf Academics Researchers Conference, 2015
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Vídeo digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


Gestural communication is the main means of communication between deaf and hearing people in the majority of countries in the world, such as in India. We investigated how fluent deaf signers and hearing speakers use conventionalised and spontaneous gestures to communicate with each other. The locations of the research were public and parochial spaces such as markets, shops, food joints and public transport, where we focused on gestural interactions between strangers and acquaintances in Mumbai. In particular, the discourse range of gestural communication as well as its limitations and potential were investigated. The role of speech and writing in gestural communication was analysed. We video-recorded the gestural interactions of 6 deaf protagonists, and in-depth and impromptu interviews were conducted with both deaf and hearing individual participants to find out more about their views on gesture. The recordings provided data for analysis but also material for a film documentary, which will serve as a basis for further exploration in a second round of data collection in which the documentary will be presented for group discussion.

We will shortly summarise the views presented during the interviews, in particular underlying perspectives regarding gestures, sign language and deaf people. For example, it appeared that no conceptual division was made between gesture and sign language (both called Ishara in Hindi). This seems to be a prevailing ideology of both deaf and hearing people in Mumbai. Gesture and sign language instead are said to exist on a continuum, and deaf signing is faster and more complex than gesture. Gestural communication was said to be limited and slower than fluent spoken or signed communication, but to be important for customer interactions, joking and small talk (including small talk about the news and politics).