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Accepted Paper:

The embodiment of conflict. The prohibition of Sign Language in Dutch elderly deaf people's younger years.  
Anja Hiddinga (Unversity of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

In this ‘film-in-progress’ different images are combined: edited interviews of the two main Dutch protagonists in the controversy over the use of Dutch Sign Language in deaf education, footage showing the embodied communicative practices of elderly deaf people in signing and non-signing hands.

Paper long abstract:

In most countries in Europe and the US, deaf people were forbidden to use sign language in communication until well into the 20th century. Deaf children grew up having to learn to produce spoken words and 'read lips' in order to acquire spoken language, a strenuous and often futile activity. From the 1960's when linguists showed that sign languages are 'real' languages, the road was paved for another perspective on deaf people: that of a cultural community. In the Netherlands conflicts between sign language protagonists and those adhering to the so called 'oralist approach' dominated deaf education until the 1980s.

Deaf emancipation, the struggle for rights and cultural recognition evolved in tandem, but elderly deaf are caught in between these very different views on deafness. Brought up with the notion that signing was a forbidden and inferior way of expressing oneself, the embodied communicative practices of these elderly bear the traces of this conflicted history.

The two main figures in this debate - one a linguist, the other a teacher - started their careers in a big Catholic institute for the deaf with similar points of view, but became adversaries in the course of years. They were interviewed at the end of their lives, looking back at the conflict. For this ‘film in progress’, the edited interview material is combined with shots of (non-)signing hands of elderly. (length 17 min.)

Panel Film04
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