Deaf Gain and Shared Signing Communities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In this chapter, I discuss shared signing communities such as Martha's Vineyard and Adamorobe in the light of their contribution to human diversity and diversity between human communities—and thus to Deaf Gain. I fluctuate between descriptions of internal and external perspectives, the former being the perspectives and practices of the inhabitants of shared signing communities, and the latter being the perspectives of people living or originating “outside” the communities, who are typically situated in an environment that is less deaf-friendly and where sign-language use is less pervasive. I first lay down the main features that seem to define shared signing communities, outlining sociocultural patterns that they seem to have in common. Next, I discuss shared sign languages as languages existing on a continuum of signing. Subsequently, I set out on internal ambivalent discourses about deaf people and deafness in shared signing communities, which seem to include both Deaf Gain perspectives and more “negative” perspectives. From there, I focus on the aforementioned view of deaf people as strong fighters and workers. In the conclusion, I summarize how the Deaf Gain concept can be applied to practices and discourses in shared signing communities. Ambiguity seems to be the key idea, and shared signing communities exist on a continuum with similar or surrounding (as well as all other human) societies. Naturally, these communities do not exist in a cultural or historical vacuum; they are places subjected to the very same trends that have spurred Bauman and Murray to coin the term Deaf Gain. There is a need to recognize and study the complex, ambiguous contexts in which practices and discourses that could be described as Deaf Gain appear.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeaf Gain
Subtitle of host publicationRaising the Stakes for Human Diversity
EditorsH-Dirksen L. Bauman , Joseph J. Murray
Place of PublicationMinnesota
PublisherUniversity of Minnesota Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-0816691227
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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