Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric

Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric

Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric

Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric

Synopsis

This meticulous study examines the rhetorical foundation that motivated Deaf people to work for social change during the past two centuries. In clear, concise prose, Jankowski analyzes the rhetoric they used, not limited to spoken language, to galvanize effective action. Central to Deaf Empowerment is the struggle between the dominant hearing society and Deaf people over the best means of communication, with the educational setting as the constant battleground. This evocative work first tracks the history of interaction between these two factions, highlighting the speaking majority's desire to compel Deaf people to conform to "the human sciences" conventionality by learning speech. Then, it sharply focuses on the development of the Deaf social movement's ideology to seek general recognition of sign language as a valid cultural variation. Also, the influence of other social movements of the 60s and 70s is examined in relation to the changing context and perception of the Deaf movement, as well as to its rhetorical refinement.

Excerpt

Much can be learned about a group of people and the power structure of their society by studying the process of change and its impact on the greater society. My first experience with attempting to alter the status quo occurred when I was thirteen years old. My classmates and I arrived at the conclusion that we were not being challenged to our fullest potential and, therefore, were being cheated out of our education. I personally led a student protest in the classroom, complete with picket signs. Although this humble protest hardly made a dent in our society, it taught me about democracy and equal rights.

My interest in social change and my desire to salute the efforts of the Deaf community—past, present, and future—created the impetus for my dissertation study, on which this book is based. Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric is intended to illustrate how hard-fought struggles by our ancestors helped pave the way for the unprecedented Deaf President Now protest of 1988, which in turn, continues to empower the Deaf community in so many valuable ways. Our society is a much better place because of these efforts.

This book is also about communication. It offers a unique perspective of communication not only as the means of conveying information but also as the central issue of the Deaf movement, thus, making this a reflexive study of communication. This approach made the book more personal for me. I chose to study communication because I grew up in a community where communication was not taken for granted. I lived in the Deaf commu-

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