In space no-one can see you waving your hands: making citizenship meaningful to Deaf worlds

Steven D. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article suggests that there is an underlying social contract that defines relationships between deaf and hearing people and which ultimately influences state provisions as well as society's perception of Deaf people. It is outdated and does not have the consent of Deaf communities. It will be argued that any renegotiation of the social contract needs to take into consideration a number of ‘elements’ that would be the context for that negotiation. Deaf citizens are marginalised in society largely due to a citizenship that assumes an idealised individual as a speaking and hearing citizen, with a social policy constructed and made in the image of hearing culture, that is rooted in a philosophy of favouring by default the instruction of deaf children via oral means in overwhelming mainstream education. These state policies have resulted in an entrenched social exclusion of Deaf people. Citizenship is recognised as an inclusive and momentum concept and therefore this situation is not unchangeable. A renegotiation of the social contract may require a form of group rights which nevertheless recognises the transnational nature of Deaf communities. As part of that process it will be necessary for Deaf people to obtain control over how their communities are run and resources allocated. That would entail the withering away of hearing control in a social policy context within Deaf spheres of influence. The new social contract would aim not for a paternal citizenship, but an empowering and Deaf-led one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'In space no-one can see you waving your hands: making citizenship meaningful to Deaf worlds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this