Deaf Politics and the Right to Life: Literary Expressions of Ethnocide

Autor/a: MAZIQUE, Rachel
Año: 2015
Editorial: VII Deaf Academics Researchers Conference, 2015
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Vídeo digital


Comunidad y cultura sorda, Historia, Arte y Cultura


This talk looks at the power of literature in fostering a Deaf bioethics and dismantling harmful schemas about Sign Language Peoples (SLPs). My research methodology derives from cognitive literary studies. I examine how the cognitive processes involved in reading fiction’s imagined dystopic futures, which bring about “The End” of SLPs, affect perspectives on group rights for deaf communities. Why study Deaf literature? I argue that the urgent political claims of texts like American writer, Karawynn Long’s short story, “Of Silence and Slow Time” (1995), British novelist, Nick Sturley’s Milan (2003), British filmmaker, Ted Evans’ The End (2011), and British poet, Donna Williams’ “When the Dead are Cured” (2013) speak to the “in-between” area of Deaf literature, Deaf Studies, and Deaf politics. This “betweenness” positions Deaf literature as a bridge between disability studies and ethnic studies. From the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (UNCRPD) to arguments against ethnocide, Deaf politics involves grappling with the group identities of both disability and ethnicity.

In examining the “betweenness” of Deaf politics, I find that Long’s “Of Silence and Slow Time” is a paradigmatic text—showing us how the Deaf ethnic contends with audist beliefs about the “undesirability of Deaf lives.” This story presents a future state undergoing scientific ethnocide, the deliberate destruction of an ethnic group. The state’s control over the reproductive lives of Deaf women contributes to cultural genocide and demonstrates the undesirability of “defective” deaf lives. All of the aforementioned authors present bioethical concerns about linguistic genocide, cultural genocide, and/or ethnocide in stories that imagine the end of SLPs. In doing so, they consider the implications of the ideology of ability, defined by Disability Studies scholar, Tobin Siebers, which necessitates the eradicating of deafness in the medical industry’s centuries-long search for a “cure”—a cure that some may say has been achieved by cochlear implants and that others say is ever closer with new genetic engineering laws. The authors above offer an imaginative take to the challenges of Deaf futures, which enables the activation of cognitive processes that can “produce lasting, socially transformative psychological changes in readers” (Bracher). Because the authors present the search for a cure as a eugenic campaign in modern form, readers that practice schema criticism have the power to correct faulty cognitions, which, according to Bracher, is key to reducing injustice. It is my hope that, from this talk, SLPs and their allies can learn from the successes and limits of various strategies of resistance as we work to promote a deaf bioethics.