Paddy Ladd on Post-Colonialism and Deafhood

In 2004, Dr. Paddy Ladd presented at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY on his new book entitled: “Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood”

There has been alot of discussion on what Deafhood is and is not. Perhaps seeing what Paddy had to say on the subject will be helpful.

Part I video clip covers Dr. Ladd’s tradition of opening his presentation honoring an important Deaf person (or people) and covers the need for a new framework when examining Deaf people as an collective entity, post-colonialism theories and frameworks, and the coining of the new term Deafhood.

Apologies – we dont have footage of the Power Point that Dr. Ladd was referring to so i have added subtitles here and there where the missing text is important to understand what he is explaining.

the clips r short – too short to piece together with effective transitions so my apologies if its a bit jarring to watch.

The video has voice interpretation but i am sure that the voicing was not in sync with the timing of Dr. Ladd’s signing so im sure i have sliced off some of the lagged voicing when i cut the video.

order the book at:

for more recent footage of Dr. Ladd presenting using British Sign Language go to: and key in paddy ladd -it will show 6 clips from the Madrid – WFD presention and also one where Barb DiGi is discussing the parallels between Nationalism and Deafhood





7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rox
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 18:46:13

    Interesting how Paddy signs deafhood (deaf focus-toward-stomach) differently than I have seen others sign it (deaf gut). Which sign is correct, or are these two distinct signs created for different ideas/audiences?

  2. pdurr
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 19:16:25

    good question

    i believe in the clips up now – Paddy is explaining the origins of the terms – Deaf focus-toward-stomach – which he seems to mean intuitiveness

    i believe as he uses the term/sign later in the video it sometimes becomes a combined sign down to “Deaf-instinct / intuition (the focus part is absorbed in with the movement down the the “gut” part which has become one handed

    not 100% sure of this but if he does swap between the “full sign” to the “abbreviated / condensed” sign from time to time it might depend on what he is signing right before or after it

    but ur observation and question is VERY important – the sign FOCUS on ur own CENTER to find what being Deaf means to u – is the essence of the term as Paddy is describing it

    i have noticed that many US Deaf folks tend to sign “deaf (ear / mouth) then finger spell h-o-o-d” which kinda seems linguistically odd to me but i think its just a beginning phase where we r all trying out the word and trying to figure out what it means and i also think that many folks have not seen or read the originator’s message so then much is left up to interpretation and assumptions

    i still havent seen a generally accepted sign for “audism” and i dont know if Dr. Tom Humphries has offered one yet. I have seen the “box on ear and mouth” and that seems to work



  3. MM
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 01:55:50

    There is an old adage in the UK, and it is ‘When in a hole, stop digging’. Mr Ladd fails to make himself clear and is deliberately obscure in rhetoric, this has allowed deaf around America to pick and mix which bits they want out of it,with the predictable result, it divides us all. I’d have more respect for Mr Ladd if he spoke plain english frankly ! He makes little attempt to correct deaf who divide people via his book statemnets either. It makes him money what does he care ?

  4. pdurr
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 06:09:31

    to MM – while u r using nice ole plain English, ur post is a a personal attack, which im not going to be putting up any more of in the future. Im allowing it up now because i think ur criticism of Deaf academic folks using obscure rhetoric is a good one. if in the future u can focus on the content without bashing an individual – i think ur message will be better heard and appreciated

    re: obscure rhetoric – same is found in other cultural studies – i believe we need these abstract thinkers. I believe we need these folks who are examining and questioning and thinking a wee bit above our rational thinking levels.

    When i watched Dr. Ladd’s video – i didnt see anything obscure – i did see stuff that is very familiar as ive read some post-colonial theories from other authors – their works are all dense English and obscure rhetoric.

    One of the many things i like about Dr. Ladd’s work is that he is encouraging us to look at the BIG picture. Deaf studies has been plagued with biographies, and individualism – this collective / socio-political analysis is needed and valuable.

    MM wondering if u have any papers, presentations, or books in plain English we could pursue – i agree there is a need for such also. I am also frustrated in finding materials that are accessible for 1st year college students as most Deaf studies authors r really writing for their peers and not for the next generation so much. I think this is largely due to the fact that Deaf Studies is in its infancy so the academics want to establish what she is amongst themselves and then have the gems of the thinking trickle down to the masses – but im not 100% sure if that is the full reason – im not speak of Paddy here specifically – speaking of myself and others who present and publish in this field. We r doing alot of “about Deaf people” and not really doing alot of “for u all to enjoy learn grow benefit from contribute challenge question etc” im thinking now especially of the grassroots community and the chasm between the grassroots and the acadmics

    i think the Deafhood workshops in the US by Ella, DE and GG really bridge that gap beautifully and are designed of, by and for the true blue Deaf – at least that is what im hoping. desparately hope we can bring them to rochester soon

    Re: digging – i always tell my students “research” means re / search. to search and search again for the answer for the information and for the right questions. it is a digging process and sometimes its messy but it must be undertaken if we r to make progress

    i know some folks say the opposite “PhD stands for pile it higher and deeper” i have seen such type of work and can smell it from a distance. believe me i would have not part in promoting such work

    re: Dr. Ladd allowing folks to pick up the term and do with it what they will – i believe that he uses appropriate academic forums to assert his thinking and to generate more questions – papers, presentations, book etc

    it would go against the spirit of Deafhood which he is promoting if he was to step forward and deliniate and dictate what Deaf peole can say is and what is not Deafhood. he can only assert what his own thinking and observations are

    in the video he said every deaf person must come to their own understanding of what Deafhood means for them personally

    hence the title of his book me guess – in search of Deafhood (both individually and collectively)

    re: $ – sadly often to get a book published folks have to pay out of pocket and see little returns – most goes to the publisher / distributor and books for academia r never best sellers – especially theorotical / rhetorical works



  5. Trackback: People of the Eye » Blog Archive » Paddy Ladd Presentation at NTID - Parts I - III
  6. C
    Nov 24, 2007 @ 21:11:48

    I can’t help but notice that he speaks while signing. Is he deaf or hoh or hearing? So, is that where deafhood ideology came from?

  7. pdurr
    Nov 25, 2007 @ 06:39:40

    I dont believe Dr. Ladd is actually vocalizing but rather is using English mouth movements

    he is Deaf – his book p. 277-281 explain indepth his educational and social background

    Yes Paddy coined the term and concept of Deafhood



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