The Production of Deaf Spaces. A History.

"DEAF people do not describe themselves as those ‘disabled’ by an inability to access hearing spaces. Rather, they celebrate an alternative, DEAF space that is produced as contexts such as urban centres, long-term DEAF families, and schools for deaf children allow them extended opportunities to come together, author DEAF languages and cultures, and transmit them from one generation to the next.

This thesis employs Lefebvre’s Production of Space to describe examples of this DEAF space revealed in France in the 18th and 19th centuries. It does so in four stages. The first begins by locating three DEAF space emergents that span the period of the Enlightenment. The second moves to 1760 to identify a further DEAF space emergent and describes the way in which the administrative neglect that followed the French Revolution afforded it the autonomy it required to blossom towards maturity. The third follows the same DEAF space through the 1830s to examine the way in which the corrective philanthropy of early anthropologists caused DEAF people to begin to locate their production of DEAF space in relation to spaces of the hearing world. The fourth identifies a later example of that DEAF space located and demonstrates how it was manipulated by DEAF and hearing groups within the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, ultimately resulting in the disabling and disempowering of the DEAF community.

The research demonstrates that these DEAF spaces, although contextually minoritarian, were as valid as the realities of the surrounding hearing-authored world. It, therefore, offers a unique lens through which to examine DEAF people on their own terms and a way to move current theoretical representations of DEAF people’s reality away from notions framed by compensatory or contestatory ‘geographies of dis-ability’ towards ‘geographies of ability’ that validate DEAF space alongside other human pursuits of a Lefebvrian Totalité."

Gulliver, M. S. (2009) DEAF space, a history: The production of DEAF spaces. Emergent, Autonomous, Located and Disabled in 18th and 19th century France. Bristol: Dissertation, 248 pages

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photo via angloitalian

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