Dr. MJ Bienvenu at Deaf Studies Conference in Utah

short summary of some of Dr. Bienvenu’s points during her keynote address “Expedition for a (Deaf) Theory” at the Deaf Studies Conference at Utah Valley University on April 11, 2008

Books by bell hooks

books by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas

Ella Mae Lentz
vlogged re: the Deaf-mute as the gravitational force for Deaf culture – might be worth a viewing to see if it links up with MJ’s Deaf-Mute Theory of Visual Beings

MJ’s presentation reminded me of my friend’s favorite quote from Agatha Tiegel Hanson’s speech re: Deaf women and a noble hunger:

“She herself is too strongly impelled by a noble hunger for something better than she has known, too highly inspired by the vista of the glorious future, not to rise with determination and might and move on till all barriers crumble and fall.” (Hanson, 1893)

I believe there is a growing hunger in the land for a more thorough understanding of what it means to be “people of the eye.”

Pls share your thoughts, additions, corrections, questions, etc

I know i have not done Dr. Bienvenu justice with this very very brief summary




13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deaf Swedish
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 02:36:12

    Please forgive me for being not understand because you read and sign same time. I have hard time to follow you. Can you do the consecutive process? That way I can enjoy watch you with one language at time. I am sorry that I can not follow all what you said. I am feeling bad about it because I want to learn.

    Is your computer a pc? A pc is piece of crap. MAC is manifest of All Computer.

    Mac apple is something that you can open and play while PC, you open and pray for not crash.

    Hope that you can redo the MJ thing agaiin read thing… Thanksssssssssssssssssssssssss!

  2. susan
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 03:34:41

    I would like to know more about what MJ Bienvenu said about deaf mutes and other things. I understand that she is not a big advocate of deafhood. She did an awful job when she did the SLCC interview with Tom Allen. She was advocating for the hearing center which heavily focuses on speech, AVT, etc. It does not match with the deaf mutes theory. Did she have a change of heart? What is her position on CIs? What is her current position on the hearing center at SLCC? Any chance you can interview her?

  3. SuzyB
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 05:27:21

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the summary–any clips on the presenter from someone else? Will UVU post it?

    It is nice we are still working the kinks to move into the territory what is powerful and attractive vs not powerful and unattractive. Everyone owns Deafhood, not just one single person, group/clique, organization, club or business. And it’s nice to add the diversity in the development esp., from other cultures and countries and ways of being like GBLTSQ

    Patti, Thx for this ‘report’–maybe meet you at the NTID reunion this June? who knows….grins*

  4. pdurr
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 06:21:43

    Deaf Swedish – im a mac user. computer didnt really crash – the hard drive was full so the program quit unexpectedly and couldnt retreive my work even though i had saved

    re: reading – im not really reading anything except for spelling of names so not sure what your feedback is. i agree im not that clear cuz im trying to figure out how to explain complex ideas in a few tiny minutes smile. hopefully someone else who saw the presentation will also vlog about it.

    if u have any other suggestions on how to sign so it doesnt look like reading etc pls advise cuz i dont want to dishonor the keynote by making a lousy vlog – smile and i hope to do a few more so your feedback is really important



  5. pdurr
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 06:38:19

    susan –

    u mentioned you know mj is not a big fan of Deafhood etc – not sure if that is an accurate statement. During her presentation in Utah she gave Paddy Ladd’s book a raving review and praised the conceptualization of Deafhood and advocated for a need for more theorizing

    re: Deaf-mute – i have added a link above to Ella Mae Lentz’s vlog on Deaf-mutes. MJ did not reference Ella’s vlog but i suspect they are connected – this inquiry and desire to fully understand what Deaf-mutes have to offer our world. I do think it is important


    a friend of mine after seeing MJ present thought that perhaps the first wave of Deaf studies was a surface level examination of Deaf people and the 2nd wave would be more radical and Deaf folks raised under colonialism who adopted the ways of the dominant culture (speaking, maximizing hearing, behavior / values of hearing folks, etc) would become outcast and obsolete like dinosaurs

    when i see ella and mj discussing Deaf-mutes i dont see in any way that they want to exclude folks like myself who are partially Deaf and were raised orally

    i think they are simply saying lets really look at the very important role Deaf-mutes play in Deaf culture

    RE: MJ and SLCC – hopefully she can vlog on that

    i do not know the circumstances behind the interview u r refering to but having watched it – i did have to wonder how media was being used to co-opt key players

    in MJ’s keynote she did discuss media, representation and talking about things that we might not want to talk about

    im not in the DC area so i am assuming that some dialoguing has already taken place amongst key players re: what everyone wants the SLCC to be or not to be. we have an interesting building of our own at ntid

    from experience though i know that what the people want and what the administration does are not always in agreement

    Susan ur comment re: MJ is a bit harsh in tone. i honestly thought she was awesome and seemed very liberated at the DS conference. My friend pat g. often reminds me there was a study done by two hearing professors at Gallaudet many many years ago and they determined that the most oppressed Deaf people were often the ones that worked at Deaf institutions – kinda trapped by the system unable to make sufficient changes due to their positions etc

    i cant speak for MJ but i do know in my own life i have tried long and hard to be an instrument of positive change and some times ive gotten played and other times ive been ineffective but im still a person of my principles and will be so when they close the coffin

    so id ask us all to be gentle in judging our leaders. if we feel they have strayed – challenge them with love to return to the path. if we see them revitalizing and raising again – rally around them with encouragement and reminders of the importance of compassion for others alongside being a catalyst for positive change



  6. pdurr
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 06:46:35

    Suzy B

    UVU did videotape the keynotes so when their conference proceedings are ready they will probably include a DVD

    it would be GREAT if they could put clips up online of the various presenters

    i really REGRET that i didnt ask folks to offer their comments directly after each keynote – i always love seeing others POVS and what they take away from a presenter more than trying to summarize it myself. its always much more authentic, dynamic, and insightful for me

    didnt do this cuz right after the keynotes were other smaller presentations and folks scattered

    it really would be awesome next time for DS Today to have breakaway discussion circles to process the keynotes’ addresses but they had a very full schedule at this conference – sure it was difficult to fit everything in

    if u know of anyone who when to the conference – pls encourage her/him to vlog on what they took away from the conference

    like u said Deafhood belongs to no one – it belongs to everyone so the more sharing, stretching, ammending, understanding of Deafhood the better

    i like ur wording re: powerful and attractive territory

    Ella always presents in terms of POSSIBILITIES

    re: examining other frameworks etc – one of the things i really loved about MJ’s presentation was the application of feminist theory and rhetoric – not many folks discuss these notions in such amazing ASL and with such depth

    not sure ill be in town for the NTID reunion – summer plans still up in the air but if i am – PLEASE say hi



  7. RLM
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 08:15:07

    I have much respect for MJ as a person. I always like her as a person, but some people don’t.

    I still am dismayed at MJ for not believing the existence of “reverse racism”. Come on!

    Several people came to me and thanked me personally after I asked MJ a question last three years ago about “reverse racism” at the presentation.

    How could MJ deny such existence about “reverse racism”?

    I would love to read or view MJ’s “Expedition of the Deaf (Theory) presentation, either paper or video.

    I like MJ no matter if we have some theortical disagreements. She is really a nice and fair-minded person.

    Robert L. Mason (RLM)

  8. Jean Boutcher
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 09:27:23

    Hi RLM,

    Would you be kind to give us
    several examples of “reverse
    racism”? I would appreciate it.

  9. MikeS
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 10:11:44

    Thanks for sharing this. I hope this theory materialize even further for certain people to truly understand the signing Deaf experience. I saw her in her “Ism’s” presentation in Fremont few years ago and it’s always a pleasure (we luv this stuff don’t we? ;)) to be a participant in this discourse addressing the Deaf soul. I just completed a five weeks class based on under-serving multicultural deaf and white privilege and it’s interesting what you said toward the end that deaf culture is a white person’s reality.

  10. MikeS
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 10:48:45

    Correction: 10 weeks. Indeed, signing deaf consider themselves “people of the eye.” Now I know where u get this vlog title from. 🙂

  11. pdurr
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 15:55:33

    RLM – cant really comment as i wasnt at the event 3 years ago and its not clear if MJ was denying the existence of reverse racism or disagreeing with ur use or application of the word etc

    regardless it is cool to know you can respectfully agree to disagree

    Jean – yep i agree it would be nice if RLM could give some examples of what he is referring to by reverse racism

    MikeS – u lucky guy to have a 10 week course re under-serving multicultural Deaf and white privilege – really important stuff

    re: u wording on “discourse addresing the Deaf soul” – lovely put


  12. pdurr
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 15:58:19

    Deaf Swedish – i re-watched the vlog to see what it was that gave u the impression i was reading 100% and i realize my eye contact was on the imovie screen and not on the camera lens eye so definitely doesnt look like im talking to ya – sorry about that. thanks for the input

    ill try to remember in the future to look at the little dot – should WAY KNOW BETTER meself

    may still look like im reading as im pretty much still an English thinker but will try try me best

    thanks for the input



  13. Deaf Swedish
    Apr 19, 2008 @ 01:03:55

    You did good job but hard to follow. You do not read. You were like you were look at something maybe reading but I am wrong. I will try my best to be able to understand you because this kind of subject real excited me the mostly. Sorry about hard drive that you got to be more careful about it. is it new? or,… I am mac user for many years. do you think it might be lemon? (kidding) So much to ask but I rather make a videophone to call to ask many questions. Hoped It is ok. Many Thanks!

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