What the Heck is Deaf Culture

Culture is defined as a way of life for a group of people

Literature on Deaf culture chiefly describe 5 characteristics of Deaf culture:
Language – for U.S. that is ASL
Norms of Behavior
Values / Beliefs
Traditions / Heritage
Possessions / Artifact

(community is usually defined as a group of people who share a common goal, language and space/place)

several good books that describe Deaf culture –
– Padden and Humphries – Voices From a Culture: Deaf in America and Inside Deaf Culture
– Ladd – Understanding Deaf culture: in search of Deafhood
– Lane, Hoffmeister, and Bahan – Journey into the Deaf-World
– Lane – mask of benevolence

there are several other good texts written by scholars on this subject

none of them say u must be from a Deaf family/school or have a certain dB loss

all of them say there are a specific set of characteristics that exemplify Deaf culture

to be a member of Deaf culture, one must:
a. be deaf (varying degrees welcome)
b. follow the 5 characteristics of a culture
a. language – use ASL (varying degrees of fluency exist due to parenting and educational system but not having learned it as an infant does not exclude one from Deaf culture)

b. values / beliefs – there are many but key is the belief / value that to be a person of the eye is OK, NORMAL, Good. this does not mean to choose not to be part of Deaf culture is bad or wrong. it is just an assertion that Deaf is not abnormal, an affliction, a desired trait to iradicate from the world, etc

c. norms of behavior / customs – there are many – to name a few
– strong use of eye contact
– higher comfort level with body contact
– strong use of facial expressions
– certain non-verbals unique to Deaf people – nose wrinkle to mean “oh i see or agree”, lips up and down to mean “very interesting” etc
– long good byes
– being direct

d. traditions / heritage – to me this is the weakest link for Deaf culture due to the fact that Deaf people are often
“one generation thick” its hard to transmit cultural traditions if many people are not raised in the culture. most traditions are affiliated and specific to certain Deaf schools (example – rat funerals at Gallaudet or certain Deaf jokes and folkores etc)
In Paris, France the Deaf-mute banquets probably signified the strongest tradition
heritage – is mostly general knowledge of the origin and history of ASL in the US – Clerc, Native American Sign Language, ASD, etc
many cultures develop their own traditions to help promote their heritage – Jewish people’s non-temple based holidays – Passover and Hanukah are largely about remembering the past and looking forward
African-Americans have Kwanzaa, Juneteenth
Deaf culture is developing some traditions – blue ribbon ceremonies, International Day of Sign Languages, commemoration of Clerc’s birthday etc

e. possessions / artifacts – most cultures have food, clothing and music unique to their culture. Deaf people of course have unique devices and tools (captions, pagers, light flashers) unique to them but they also have artistic expressions such as ASL literature: ABC / # stories, Deaf folklore, Deaf View / Image Art (visual art representing the Deaf experience), Deaf literature (written poems, short stories, etc), Deaf theatre and films etc

with Deaf folks there is a uniqueness as most dont come from Deaf parents and thus do not acquire their culture from birth on (enculturation) – note – from deaf parents does not always automatically mean the 5 characteristics r passed onto the childrn as some deaf parents prefer not to be part of Deaf culture or some are not aware of these characteristic having never been exposed to them before

most deaf folks become acculturated – learn these characteristics later in life – from school, from peers, etc – once learned and internalized they may choose a Deaf identity over a purely medical view of being deaf

point of entry via enculturation not mean GOOD and AUTOMATIC necessarily just as point of entry via acculturation does not mean BAD and IMPOSSIBLE to be fully culturally Deaf

the same is true for other cultural groups

a person who may be black may or may not subscribe to Black culture, a person who may be of Jewish descent may or may not subscribe to Judaism and Jewish culture

beyond a cultural group is a broader community which is made up of members who subscribe to the culture and members who do not but are part of the community by virtue of their being Black or Jewish or deaf in this case. hearing or non-Black, non Jewish members also make up this community via marriage, relations, ally, child of, etc

the chief difference really is not about when or how one joins Deaf culture but rather – IF

if a person chooses to only identify with the hearing community – that is her/his choice
if a person chooses to only identify with the deaf community (which exist within the hearing-world) and not Deaf culture – that is her/his choice
if a person chooses to identify with Deaf culture (which exists within deaf community and the hearing-world at large) – that is her/his choice

the last is about biculturalism / bilingualism and not about exclusivity

i understand that all groups above have been misrepresented and misunderstood in some blogs/vlogs comment postings

i hope we can explore text and films created by scholars in the field of Deaf Studies to advance a more academically sound understanding of Deaf culture


patti durr


42 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karen Mayes
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 15:37:30

    *Grin* this has been discussed over and over at DeafDC blog in the year of 2007, especially by a Michelle Ketchum who considered herself as an expert on Deaf Culture.

    The way I see it, we all are part of deaf community AND deaf culture. It all comes down to acceptance, respect, and tolerance. It is just that the knowledge and fluency of ASL has been cited as the “must” to be “accepted” into the Deaf culture.

    Rochester, NY is a great place for tolerance and acceptance of all kinds of deaf people so it is nice, having lived there for 19 years myself.

  2. Brian Riley
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 15:43:17

    Please don’t forget to mention *where* Deaf culture takes place. It is not limited to Deaf clubs and living rooms, but it certainly *includes* Gallaudet University (as the central institution of American Deaf culture) and most schools for the Deaf.

    One of the big pieces of deception coming out of the Jordan disinformation machine was the myth that Gallaudet is (he said) an academic institution and not part of Deaf culture. But that is a false choice. There is no reason to split the issue that way. Contrary to Jordan’s shallow view, Gallaudet University is actually an academic institution AND it is the central institution of American Deaf culture.

    ALL universities are cultural institutions and it was quite bizarre for Jordan to attempt to spread this false propaganda.

    Back in 1993 some people asked to celebrate a holiday at Gallaudet on the 5th anniversary of DPN. This was a very reasonable proposal! ALL societies have recognized holidays in their culture where government offices, universities and schools close down so that people can celebrate and reflect on the meaning of the holiday.

    A holiday does not just represent free time, but it represents free time with a *purpose*. One of the purposes of most every holiday is educational. People stop to reflect on the meaning of the holiday and what it means in the culture and to them personally.

    If there is a holiday at Gallaudet to promote cultural values, then an extra day can be added at the end of the semester. This should have never been an issue whatsoever. It’s a no-brainer that it’s perfectly proper to have specific Deaf-culture-oriented holiday(s) at Gallaudet.

  3. drmzz
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 16:24:52

    Thanks for sharing. While we can benefit from such rudimentary information from such former academic authors, we need new authors in this age. I feel that the majority use “culture” to pigeonhole a group. The majority are actually expecting current cultures to conform to a technology-based culture, C.I. I disagree. I support dual languages model. Indeed, wherever there is linguistic access for my language, ASL, I’ll go to.

    We’re an unique minority that it recommends us to adapt to an actual alternate linguistic access – ASL. Moreover, while nationalism is mono-linguistic in nature, I believe Deaf people are exception to the rule. Folks need to catch up on that. Forget ‘bout identities and cultures and go for dual language privileges in all that is deaf.


  4. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 17:39:48

    karen –

    knowledge of ASL is fundalmental and important component of what it means to be part of Deaf culture according to the scholars

    you wrote: “It is just that the knowledge and fluency of ASL has been cited as the “must” to be “accepted” into the Deaf culture.”

    can you show me which scholarly source states this?

    im not talking about blog/vlog posters / commentors – while i value and treasure their POV – what im looking for is what has been reported (DIE) by the experts via ethnographic studies etc

    scholars recognize that valuing ASL, bilingualism, and biculturalism is a central part of Deaf culture

    my concern is that some people have twisted ASL as being an important part of ASL to be some kind of rodstick – if u dont measure NATIVE signer u are O-U-T

    most Deaf culture folks i know do not support this belief / value and i have never seen it in any scholarly writings so im just trying to clarify facts from myths and misconceptions

    re; Rochester YES i completely agree – rochy has a marvelous Deaf community and beautiful Deaf culture



  5. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 17:51:16


    first off – i just wanna let u know i respect and agree with what u have written

    at the same time its important to tell u im uncomfortable with ur use of the word “shallow” to describe Jordan

    i am sure you have your reasons – its just myself im trying to have my work and advocacy not be engaged in name calling or diminishing a person to make my point

    i agree Gallaudet u. can never be divorced of a cultural component

    holidays r very important and part of the traditions characteristic of culture

    all Deaf institutions by virtue of who they “serve” have cultural components regardless of how hard they may try to weed them out

    i have seen many Deaf Institutions and programs block Deaf cultural growth from not acknowledging civil rights actions, hiring Deaf artists to create campus artworks, to what curriculum they approve and/or guests they bring to campus

    re: the idea of having a holiday for DPN – one solution would be for FSSA folks at Gally to organize such an event – even if the administration prefers to still hold classes. At RIT we have a MLK JR celebration but we dont get the day off

    in fact it took a very long time for MLK Jr day to become a recognized holiday

    so there are many ways to approach positive change within a system when u find obstruction and resistance

    i think ur point is excellent and i believe someone else was talking about the upcoming 20th anniversary of DPN

    something national could be organized for different pockets across the country to honor the week in which the Deaf community peacefully and collectively signed out



  6. DE
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 17:56:12

    This is the best entry you’ve ever done, Patti.

    This is a very concise “answer” to all these “What is Deaf Culture?” & “Who is a member of Deaf Culture?” question. This is a keeper- I will refer to your entry in my teachings from now & on.

    Brian- good discussion about “where” Deaf Culture is. I think it’s ingrained in our bodies, heart, and soul. Whether that gets watered by society or not, it’s still inside us all. ‘Sfunny, sometimes I feel more “Deaf Cultural” while interacting with hearing students (who do sign ASL pretty proficiently). Some days I feel my cultural needs being fed at Deaf gatherings. Point is, I carry Deaf Culture within my heart (I think)- and some SITUATIONS, not specific places, do nurture that cultural aspect of mine.


  7. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 17:56:47


    one more question sorry

    u wrote
    “Gallaudet is (he said) an academic institution and not part of Deaf culture”

    referring to IK Jordan – can u cite a source of where i could see such a statement?

    i cant imagine a president of spellman college, howard university, or Baynard college would try to disavow a cultural component



  8. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 18:04:23

    Mike S

    i agree we need some new writings on this subject although some of the text cited above r pretty new / recent

    many more recent dissertations on the subject also

    Deaf studies is really in her infancy so we are discovering and reworking stuff daily

    re: ur approach with a bilingual focus and framework – im interested. wondering if u could blog a bit about that

    my limited understanding of bilingualism is that it is always accompanied with biculturalism so i dont know really how we can get around or avoid discussing culture

    some folks have theorized that there is no such thing as culture its all a social construct

    others have said ethnic group would be more appropriate

    still others say disability model is the only one that applies

    pls ping here if u do blog/vlog about ur bilingual thoughts



  9. LaRonda
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 18:14:20

    Hi Patti.

    Your ending words really helped me clear up some jumbled thoughts I’ve had today. You said:

    “the chief difference really is not about when or how one joins Deaf culture but rather – IF

    if a person chooses to only identify with the hearing community – that is her/his choice
    if a person chooses to only identify with the deaf community (which exist within the hearing-world) and not Deaf culture – that is her/his choice
    if a person chooses to identify with Deaf culture (which exists within deaf community and the hearing-world at large) – that is her/his choice

    the last is about biculturalism / bilingualism and not about exclusivity “

    Thank you. You have reminded me of concepts I learned as a Deaf Studies major years ago, but had forgotten. Thanks for helping me brush up!

    ~ LaRonda

  10. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 18:22:37


    thanks for ur comment

    my blog posting really is rudimentary information as Mike s. said but it might help us all be on a common page then we know what we r really discussing

    i think Deaf culture is getting a bit hijacked by both sides of the “extreme ends”

    on one side it gets scapegoated and on the other end it gets twisted to be a gate keeper

    thankful the extreme ends are extremely small

    the more we can discuss what Deaf culture is factually the better i think we can come to understanding ourselves

    ur comment to brian re: PLACE

    yes with a community, PLACE is often very very important – share a space (whether it be real or virtual) is where a community can be forged

    Gallaudet, NTID/RIT, CSUN, small Deaf programs in hearing colleges, and deaf schools (bi/bi, TC, or oral) or mainstream programs with a good number of deaf children can form this community

    Gallaudet has a stronger history of the cultural component largely due to its origins of instruction in ASL etc

    re: Deaf culture being in one’s BEING – their heart, soul, mind etc – i believe this is the conceptualization and essence of Deafhood. there is the individual form and the collective form

    both are emerging and advance
    with more workshops and vlogs such as urs, ellas and ggs

    my the journey begin



  11. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 18:51:46


    re: the brush up – de nada

    i am inconstant needs of gentle reminders

    much peace


  12. Brian Riley
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 18:57:19

    I didn’t mean to be inflammatory, but intended “shallow” to be more matter-of-fact. It is, in fact, quite shallow to have the opinion that Deaf culture is something that only mainly happens in Deaf clubs and people’s living rooms.

    I have a school paper that was written by a high school student that shows Jordan’s attitude about why he did not allow a holiday in 1993 to celebrate the 5th anniversary of DPN. I will e-mail it to anyone who asks. This high school student interviewed a high-ranking administrator at Gallaudet 5 or 6 years ago. The message from the Jordan administration was clear. Gallaudet was seen by the Jordan admin as being an “academic institution” and therefore it was (supposedly) inappropriate to celebrate DPN by calling a holiday. That’s a false choice, as I wrote above.

  13. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 19:23:04

    Your concise description of the Deaf culture is well done. I am sure that your time spent in composing the blog entry is appreciated by all readers.

    I want to quote a statement that may be relevant to your inquiry on where Ms. Karen Mayes might have gotten about the fluency in ASL as a must in the Deaf culture. (To Ms. Karen Mayes, I don’t mean to jump in your way. It is only my serendipitous search using Google’s BookSearch that led me to this statement.) The following statement is quoted from “Reading Between the Signs: Intercultural Communication for Sign” by Anna Mindess on page 76 in Chapter 5 titled “American Deaf Culture”:

    “The following elements are often identified as the core of Deaf culture: fluency in ASL, residential school experience, and Deaf parents.”

    Do you agree with this statement?

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

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  15. pdurr
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 21:32:56

    brian – i’ll read the paper you sent me
    it would be ironic if the President who achieved fame and glory as a result of the Deaf President Now protest did in fact believe that Deaf culture was not part of Gallaudet university academically

    since gallaudet has had a very progressive and important Deaf Studies bachelors and master’s degree for some time now i thought otherwise

    furthermore since DPN was seen as an outgrowth of ASL and Deaf culture awareness – it is odd to think that the person who benefitted the most directly from DPN would try to deny their (ASL, Deaf culture, and DPN) importance, power or significance

    joe – thanks for hunting down a source

    not having read the whole source – my guess is the distinction is the authors’ use of the word CORE

    i have seen many authors / scholars identify fluency in ASL, Deaf school experience, coming from Deaf parents and even having a Deaf spouse as contributing to Deaf culture

    i would agree that those FACTORS often increase ones knowledge of Deaf culture – they also speed up / accelerate the acculturation / enculturation process and often having Deaf parents or having attended a Deaf school gives one fluency in ASL, Deaf values, beliefs, traditions and possessions

    not always but often

    the difference is that while these might be the CORE of Deaf culture – they are not the whole of Deaf culture

    meaning that if a person does not have Deaf parents or does not come from a Deaf school or does not have native fluency in ASL – they can still be part of Deaf culture if they have the 5 characteristics above

    there is a causal relationship often (not always) associated with parents / school use of ASL that will enstill / promote ASL in the child but this does not prohibit others who do not possess Deaf school / parents / spouse from joining later. they do however need to possess a respect and sound use of ASL as it is one of the main characteristics and values of Deaf culture

    thanks again



  16. Brian Riley
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 00:00:56

    By the way, that report indicates that Jordan administration’s informal determination was to predict the closure of the residential schools, because of the belief parents do not want their kids to be away during the week. This was referred to in the Jordan admin by way of the pathologically oriented term “institutionalizing,” as in the phrase: “parents don’t want to institutionalize their children.”

    The noun “institution” is an acceptable term, but the verb “institutionalize” carries very strong medical-pathological connotations when applied to this context.

  17. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 03:09:05

    This is only “for your information” (FYI) for those who want to read the context of the quotation that I made in my previous comment.

    After going to Google’s Book Search (usually at http://books.google.com/bkshp?hl=en&tab=wp), click on the link “Advanced Book Search”.

    In the box for “with the exact phrase”, enter: core of deaf culture

    In the box for ISBN, enter either 1877864730 or 1931930260. The former seems to be the original edition while the latter seems to be the new edition. The former has the complete words while the latter has many individual letters missing. The page numbering is different between these editions.

    Click on Google Search to get the result (usually only one result) and click on the result to see the passage.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

  18. Karen Mayes
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 05:17:44

    It is my perpsective and you don’t have to agree with it. I know MANY people who feel the same way about ASL as the measuring rod for acceptance. It is just the way it is.

    MANY people do not take ASL seriously (like more at home with SimCom, oral method, etc.) so they are happy with themselves. I am lucky to consider them as my friends and they are wonderful. It is a matter of comfort zone for everyone.

    It is not fair to many deaf people who do not know ASL and if they want to be accepted into Deaf Culture, must accept ASL… it is like Bible… the only way to God is through Jesus. Yes, I am making a parallel here which may strike other people as unfair. Why can’t deaf people who choose oral method or who feels more at home with cued language be considered as part of Deaf Culture instead of Deaf community? Because they don’t know ASL?

    I and a few others have challenged Deafhood team to include oral deaf person, late-deafened person, etc. to be on the team to show unity… none of them responded which make us wonder…it is because of ASL?

    That is my point.

    So the way I see it… there is a need for tolerance.

  19. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 07:09:17

    Brian – re: institutionalize etc


    there have been many “prophets” predicting the demise of all Deaf schools in the U.S. instead we see a rise in some areas

    the penduleum swings back and forth

    ideally kids would not need to leave their families during the week

    i think all parents would want their children home with them daily – the bond of family is important

    due to how spread out Deaf children are across the country – residential programs were created

    this does invite abuses

    for us to deny that some Deaf schools instances of physical, mental or sexual abuse of the children in their care is false

    these things could happen in day programs but usually happen in residential programs due to “no one watching” or those in charge of the watching “actually being the abusers”

    i do not believe that Deaf schools will close 100%

    i COMMEND the many parents who have moved their homes to be closer to Deaf schools of high quality to ensure their children get a good education and exposure to Deaf culture and ASL

    really i know of many hearing and Deaf parents who have done this and it is simply amazing to me



  20. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 07:23:21

    joe –
    thanks for the FYI – good tip

    karen –

    thank you for sharing your personal experience of feeling rejected by the Deafhood team – i am guessing (so please correct me if im wrong by Deafhood team u r referring to gg, de, and el?

    i will let them speak for themselves but my guess is that they have formed a very strong team and i imagine it is very difficult for them to coordinate 3 very different people’s schedule so to add more folks would complicate matters all the more

    i do not know each of their backgrounds well enough but i believe one member hails from a hearing family and another country no less in which i think she was raised more orally than manually

    regardless – i think ur desire and motivation to provide different points of views and expertise on Deafhood – would and should be encouraged and welcome

    suggestions if i may – consider reading Ladd’s book on Deafhood with a team of folks u could envision giving workshops / presentations on this topic with
    (you may have already read the book but having a group discussion with ur team to process this book would be invaluable. it is a very dense book and i have re-read sections numerous times and cant quite always wrap my neurons around it – i think with more discussions, musings, and interactions, many of the points will become second nature but for now some of the concepts r still out of reach for me)

    its essential that whomever is to do the presenting on Deafhood that they have a sound understanding of it

    Ladd’s work is very clear that this conceptualization must be owned by the people

    we must try it on and wear it around and see how it fits us

    i dont think any one would object to ur forming such a group

    i dont think anyone wants to monopolize Deafhood. the whole reason the Deafhood team is willing to travel to different places to share their understandings is in the HOPE that others will begin explore, examine and question

    i really cherish ur point of view and am eager to learn from it

    i do also want to be honest with u that to me at times it seem the critics of Deaf culture and Deafhood have taken things personally and in turn end up throwing stones at glass houses

    at the same time i will acknowledge that some Strong Deaf culture advocates can come off the wrong way – myself included

    pls let me know if u get something going

    i look forward to seeing what diverse team u pull together



  21. Karen Mayes
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 07:24:47

    Brian, I remember in 1980’s that I’d be asked which deaf INSTITUTION I attended. Now in 21st century the question is which deaf SCHOOL we attend, so it is a significant improvement, a change of the way we think.

  22. Karen Mayes
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 07:31:05

    Patti, thanks for your comment. Yes, I have read the Paddy book and it took a while for me to finish it. :o) I did try discussing it with a few people but at the end we had more questions and then we got too busy with holidays. I will have to page them up to see if they’d like to get together to delve more into the meaning of Deafhood, but we all agreed on one thing… that it should not be monopolized and we have a sense of monopolizing from the team, since they either would not respond to the questions or went to rationalizing our “questions”, blaming on colonization, AGBell, etc. Sooo.. we feel there is more to this… etc. So much more.

  23. Brian Riley
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 10:45:51


    This is very unfair to speak of monopolozing in that way.

    Really, you are free at any time to go on the lecture circuit and offer your services as a lecturer to any group that is interested.

    The point is if someone spends a whole career building up their reputation as a speaker, then the people who attend a lecture are people who want to hear the message that that particular person has to convey.

    If John Doe wrote a book, would it be fair for him to demand that the chapters of his book be included as rebuttal or response chapters in someone else’s book? Obviously not. John Doe is free to find his own publisher and hope that bookstores will stock his book on the same shelf.

    This is part of the free market place of ideas. Each person is free to offer their ideas in the way that they see fit. Everyone else is free to attend lectures of the people they choose, or buy books written by the authors they choose.

    There is only a finite amount of time in a person’s life. We all have to make selections of what we think will be useful for us to read. Authors have to make selections of who they want to be co-authors. Publishers have to make selections of which authors they want to publish. Bookstores make selections of which books to stock. People make selections on which lectures they want to attend. This is a process that cannot be short-circuited.

  24. brenster-
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 11:02:54

    re: karen’s previous statement about being asked which DEAF+INSTITUTION in the past and now “DEAF+SCHOOL” – she considers it as “a significant improvement.”

    i respectfully disagree. there is nothing wrong with asking which residential school attended. asl just evolved according to social & educational changes. so, evolving ‘school’ signs is simple a natural linguistic change/evolution – not an improvement.

    however, i’m glad that she mentioned that, because it is another proof that deaf people and asl do not exclude certain groups of people. thank you 🙂

  25. kim
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 11:06:22

    Thanks so much for explaining this! I love your sense of logic. I’m not big on labels, and I’ve decided I don’t really care one way or the other what people call me as long as we’re getting along. I can’t hear, and I have had deafness longer than I can remember. But I grew up hearing and I speak well, so I use my mouth to talk. I’m learning ASL. I wish everyone would use ASL and talk at the same time, because can’t don’t understand either very well, but what I don’t get of one could be filled in by the other. 🙂 Someday I hope to be fluent in ASL.

  26. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 11:29:51

    re: Deaf school vs. Deaf Institute

    i still see folks using the same ASL sign when asking which school was attended – its the two “i” handshapes on each other

    not sure when the verbal or text use of the word Institute phased out but most of us teaching in Deaf studies i believe still use the sign Deaf Institute to mean Deaf school

    i think the sign in ASL for school might be generalized to mean public school and the sign for Institute while no longer residential for most still connotes a Deaf place

    re: Deafhood – karen – said u have more questions than answers – i think Paddy would be happy with that – a big part of the book is fostering questions and critical thinking

    re: monopolizing – i really dont get the impression that the folks informing the public about Deafhood are out to monopolize it – in fact i get a general understanding of the opposite

    again i cant really answer as i was not partaking in the exchange u had

    u cited their discussions of colonalization as “rationalizing” your questions – connotes a value judgment on your part that im not really comfortable with

    the Deafhood as Paddy introduces it is embedded with post-colonial theory so it would be impossible to get around that if u were delving into Deafhood

    it is clear to me that their response to you was an unsatisfying experience for u

    im sorry u had this experience – TRULY i am

    i can only suggest that u delve, design and develop ur own workshops

    we are responsible for our own actions and not the actions of others. You have put before yourself and your friends who share the same frustrations a noble challenge

    i wish u all the best in success in being able to assert your position and understandings without in turn being guilty of the slight you feel has been perpetrated by u

    i do not say this to minimize what u have been experiencing

    i just say it as a blessing of G-dspeed – i am finding it very hard to be an advocate and not be misunderstood : )

    i look forward very much and very sincerely to ur work in asserting ur understanding of Deafhood and what it means to u personally

    there is room for all of us to have a seat at the table of Deafhood

    at this table there will be no “dinner table syndrome” so no one will need to eat in a rush to distract themselves for their family members saying “i will tell you later”

    i hope our paths will cross so we can chat in person soon


    patti durr

  27. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 11:33:05



    i have seen u posting in many places and always think – what a cool person. just as i am thinking of DE, Brian, Brenster, Karen etc

    u to me are very unique because of ur keen interest in Deaf topics yet ur lack of ASL

    just to let u know grammatically correct ASL cant really be signed on the hands while English is being spoken simultaneously – they r two completely different outputs

    much like one can not write french while simultaneously speaking spanish

    some people do talk and sign simultaneously (Sim-com) but they r normally using ASL signs in English word order

    i really like ur interest in the Deaf-world

    i welcome ya with open arms

    much peace


  28. Jean Boutcher
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 11:33:39

    Patti writes:
    “i think all parents would want their children home with them daily – the bond of family is important.”

    Agreed. That was why my deaf parents sent me to (an oral school) St. Francis Xavier’s
    instead of my mother’s alma mater Maryland School, which,
    in my time, did not allow students to go home until the winter break and the summer break.

    Many a deaf child sorely misses a special relationship with his
    parents during his first formative years.

  29. Jenny
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 13:46:33

    Hi Karen and Patti,

    Patti, I love how you’re able to connect with a wide variety of people in your responses!

    Karen, I agree with Patti in her response to you, especially regarding your dissatisfaction with some of the responses you’ve gotten. I hope you will contact the three people directly and engage in a dialogue with them until you’re satisfied. That would be more productive than peppering DeafBlogLand with comments about how they are exclusive, and denigrating them. It’s usually a good idea to approach people directly rather than talking to everyone and anyone but the person you need to talk to. Please report back and let us all know how this went, since you’ve involved all of us. *smile* Best of luck, and go for it – I know they are capable of listening to you and talking with you, not riding roughshod over you.

    I’ve had the privilege of watching the Deafhood discussions evolve, since I live in the same area that DE and Ella do, and I’ve discussed this with all three of the presenters, so maybe I can shed a bit of light here.

    These three just happened to read the book before many of us had. I can remember DE and Ella saying I, and everyone, just had to read this new book by this British guy – 3 or 4 years ago. That is one of the reasons they’re at the forefront of this discussion. They never intended to claim it for themselves. Or for a certain group. They would welcome involvement.

    And as you’ve said before, Karen, this is a tough book to read. These 3 people saw a need to get this information out in a way that was not so academic, long, and dry. They’ve been in touch with Paddy Ladd all this time, they’ve discussed his ideas with Paddy himself many times, and I know they’ve gotten together with Paddy in person to ensure they understand what he’s saying correctly. I’ve been present at a couple of those in-person dialogues and I’ve seen two, maybe three e-mails about it, with Paddy as one of the senders/recipents. Paddy makes it clear that he believes these three have a solid grasp of his theories, research, and work, based on what I’ve seen and read from him directly.

    And, to be honest, I think some people in DeafBlogLand have the wrong idea about Deafhood. It’s *not* supposed to be validation for the ASL crowd. It’s supposed to be for everyone, including oral, mainstreamed, late-deafened, et cetera. It’s NOT another way to exclude people. I get so frustrated when I see people saying it is. It’s NOT. Kim, Karen, everyone, you’re all part of this. You’re all on your Deafhood journey toward accepting yourself as a beautiful, viable, vibrant human being just the way you are.

    For those of you with issues about DE, Ella, Genie, or Deafhood in general, please DO talk to them directly. They can do it. I’ve disagreed with DE and Ella about different topics in the past and we’ve been able to talk things through. I’ve known all of them for years now. DE and Genie have grown so much in the years since college and now. I wasn’t even friends with either of them in college. I didn’t like them then. DE and I became friends in grad school and Genie and I became friendly only recently. DE has continued to grow since grad school. Ella has been able to sit down and hash things out since I’ve known her. Please do the mature thing and talk to them directly instead of going behind their backs.

    Thank you and peace, everyone. Let’s continue to dialogue with respect and honor each other, even when we disagree.

  30. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 15:22:18

    jean – thanks for ur note
    i have seen stories from d/Deaf parents a sharing how difficult it was send their children to a residential program

    there are many blessing that have come from a program that has immersion and strong bilingual / bicultural approach so i am in no way trying to “dis” Deaf schools – they have been one of the pillars of Deafhood for sure. also many cultures r comfortable with boarding schools for their children (more common in the UK for hearing kids than here in the US)

    at the same time i know it has been very hard for parents to send away their kids.

    would be nice if folks were not faced with such a difficult choice



  31. pdurr
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 15:33:09


    awesome comment

    i have seen many of the things u have testified to

    i do hope karen will pursue a positive and peaceful dialogue with them

    at some point its important for us to say “i must be the light i want to see in the world”

    so rather than criticizing and condemning individuals to instead look at are own words and actions – are we providing light by carrying old baggage or by attacking others beliefs instead of creating positive and peaceful change ourselves?

    it seems to me we are often apathetic or disenfranchised when it comes to combatting systematic oppression but when it comes to attacking or deriding each other or each other’s ideas, words, or beliefs, we are all too EAGER to do so

    “tread/type/sign carefully, feelings are everywhere”

    let us each be a light

    much peace


  32. Karen Mayes
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 17:34:44

    Thanks Jenny… will keep that in my mind and will contact Deafhood team with any questions I have. I read that book, and yes it was a dry one :o) I will re-read it and write down the questions as I go along and send them to the team/Paddy, as well as discuss the questions with my friends to see if the questions make any sense (I don’t want to write down the questions which could be easily answered by myself, so to speak ;o) )

    Thanks… I feel better now.

  33. Jenny
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 19:38:38

    Karen, that’s great news! I sincerely hope and believe that it’ll go well, even if the end result is an agreement to disagree. 🙂 and anytime! *smile*

    Patti, thanks. *blush* I loved what you said about how important it is to examine our own actions and to ensure that we ourselves are a positive force for harmony and good change.

  34. Ella Lentz
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 23:54:00

    hello from Ella,

    I thank Patti and Jenny for encouraging Karen to get in touch with me, or DE or Genie or whoever has been seriously studying the Deafhood concept which number is growing daily.

    Karen, if you want to talk to me, please remember that I can only give you my own insights, experience, and interpretations and what I believe Paddy and others meant about certain things based on my studies, background, and experience.

    And please remember, I do not know everything and am open to learn more, to be challenged to a higher level of thinking, especially about Deaf issues.

    I am open to dialogue if you are open too.

    True, I am taking some risk after what you have said about me in your comments here and there. Yes, I do understandably have some reservations but I see this as a good opportunity to clear up some things between us and hopefully others as well. So, I am game and please contact me when you have the chance.

    Look forward.

  35. pdurr
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 05:38:23

    ya hoo!



  36. observer
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 08:40:23

    If I may, I’d like to offer an observation which may help your dialogue with people.
    You’ve made comments here and there which seem to show frustration with many in the ASL-using community based on some experiences you’ve had, and it seems to me that you’re transferring a lot of that frustration to the 3 Deafhood speakers. I’d like to softly yet strongly suggest that you be mindful of this and attempt to separate your issues (valid though they may be) from what these 3 people (and the book) are saying.
    Just a gentle, friendly suggestion to help your process. Best wishes, Karen.

  37. Karen Mayes
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 13:26:40

    Ahhh… observer, I think I will overlook your comment, since you don’t know me. You could head over to Ella’s site and read my latest comment or check my old youtube from last spring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K1XHcmaWqw#GU5U2spHI_4

    I speak from my heart and I won’t change the way I comment… I just said that I’d have to use more neutral words, but I will continue speaking my own mind. You made a judgment based on your background, reading my comments, assuming what I know and how I feel. That is risky. :o)

    Have a good day…

  38. N.m.B
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 21:44:19

    Deaf people use their own language, American Sign Language, as same as English language. However, deaf people use their hand to expression their sentences out and talk to other deaf people to communicate each-others. While hearing people talking through their mouths alike automatic machine. ((No Offense))

    Those deaf people are variety of personalities when they are around many crowds. But they aren’t stupid/dumb as other hearing people have labeled them. Deaf people have their own common senses to acknowledge of their doings. Also, they valuing their own method of communicate between deaf people, family, and friends but hearing people, hardly to communicate unless they know some sign language. It would be great and easier to communication.

    The values and beliefs that deaf people actually value their own hands and eyes to get them survive through hearing communities. To communicate and look themselves out every time, where, and what. Also, they really want to expand their deaf community by produce more strong deaf families and it would really easy for them to raise deaf children than struggles with hearing children.

    Deaf people really caring their tradition and heritage, they could keep it and passing it by generations. So, in future, deaf family will know what is the original sign language look like and where is it comes from, etc. Also, they should restoring their own deaf stories, jokes, plays, movies, and others, that deaf people who joined became famous or well-know.


  39. NK
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 11:48:10

    I would like to change the “membership” of deaf culture. To be member of deaf culture one must be deaf. I think that is not exactly right because of CODA people(I have a CODA brother myself). They are automatically member of deaf culture even though they are hearing. (Actually, depends on their parents’ involvement of deaf culture.)

    Being deaf do not always define as being member of deaf culture. It is because I know some deaf people do not consider themselves as part of deaf culture at all. I would not want to say this because this will automatically make them part of the deaf culture and they have the power to define the deaf culture without any true knowledge of language, values/beliefs, norms of behavior/ customs, traditions/ heritage, possessions/ artifacts. This is dangerous to let them to beat up the “ownership of culture.”

    They can even say, oral is part of deaf culture we should learn oral methods, and have all deaf education system changed to oral method. They are allowed to say this because they are automatically member of deaf culture.

    Suppose a Jewish person who does not follow their religious traditions or anything at all. This person grew up in catholic family. Do we consider this Jewish person part of Jewish culture?

    This person has drifted away from the Jewish Culture but it does not change the fact s/he is Jewish.

    Suppose a catholic family decided to reform their traditions to Jewish methods and they follow their culture. I would consider them part of Jewish culture.

    This is America, and this is the melting pot and we have welcome everyone but as long they have knowledge and follow the language, values/beliefs, norms of behavior/ customs, traditions/ heritage, possessions/ artifacts.


    To be part of deaf culture, they must accept the 5 characteristics deaf culture first before they become part of it.


  40. DL
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 14:16:22

    I thought this article provided an excellent definition of Deaf culture. I am particularly interested in the notion of ASL being the “rodstick” for measuring nativity to the culture. If I were to choose an “identity” for myself, I would choose Christian. But I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area, commonly referred to as Chocolate City. The dominant culture of that area is the African American culture. After leaving the area and being exposed to other cultures, I have re-evaluated my definition of the African American culture, one aspect of the culture being the “ability” to speak African American Vernacular English, commonly known as “Ebonics”. Some individuals would say that the African Americans who articulate their thoughts are not true members of the African American culture. I do understand that perspective considering I was raised in that environment. However, I now contend that the manner in which one speaks should not be the primary factor in finding an identity for an individual. I have met several African American individuals who speak with eloquence and still consider themselves African American.

    I do have a hard time accepting the idea of pagers being an integral part of the Deaf community. Artifacts like De’Via art and ASL literature can be accepted as being specific to Deaf culture. However, I think that a norm for this generation as a whole is to use texting devices. I sometimes have full length conversations with my hearing friends without even pressing the “TALK” button on my phone. Texting/using pagers is the new phenomena of today that I don’t think only applies to Deaf Culture. Drinking and driving is no longer the only concern in America; texting and driving is now increasingly becoming a concern.

    Overall, this was a great article. I remember talking with a friend about the difference between White and Black culture in America. She said something powerful that I will never forget: “It’s hard to know who a culture is when THEY don’t even know who they are.” I sometimes feel the same about Deaf culture. It’s hard for people outside of the Deaf community to have a better understanding of Deaf Culture when the Deaf community doesn’t have a solid understanding of who they are. This statement is not meant to offend anyone. It is yet ANOTHER parallel between the Deaf and Black communities in America.

  41. Joel
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 22:57:05

    What I could talk about my opinions for this:

    Language – Most deaf people could use American Sign Language in the United States. I only have two kinds of languages as English and ASL.

    Norms of Behavior
    Those deaf people are sweet, smart, and friendly and use strong expression in the face with using sign language

    Values / Beliefs
    They have to feel very understand how they respect to each other and concerned about their lifes.

    Traditions / Heritage
    Some of deaf families are strong descendant of the history. My few friends have deaf parents in their families. They were from other countries as Haitai, Italy, and England.

    Possessions / Artifact
    They do keep most value items are drawing the beautiful pictures and old photos of the deaf family.

  42. NMB
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 21:57:11

    I believe that deaf people valuing their own sign language as their first language. Also, they have their second English language that they can communicate with hearing people. So, they could have a better education by sign language as same time as social with hearing people to improve their reading lip skills. I think that sign language should be preserve and film of it by well-know deaf people have their own way to sign language, for instance, in every different state that would be nice to see variety of sign language method.
    There are so many different personalities of deaf people but they are a little similar to hearing people and they just can’t hear. However, they would rather to social with deaf people than hearing people because it would be easier to communicate each-others. Deaf people tend to be open it up and sign language with facial expression and body language too.
    Deaf people’s possessions are hands and eyes that made them special and excellent at noticeable, sign language, and showing facial expression connects with sign language. Also, they are preserving the old films that those are very good to learn something. For example, to compare between old films and present sign language, stories, deaf jokes, poems, and others.
    Most of deaf people are hoping to expand their family with deaf children. So, it would be easier for them to handle it than struggle with hearing children. However, some deaf couples have hearing children that they have no problems because they teaching them sign language to communicate each-others. Also, they willing to listen, understand, to take time to wait for them to open up their expressions of feelings out of their hearing children. Many deaf people would rather to live in some cities that near a deaf community, for example, in Rochester, Indiana state, and others.

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