Transnational Deafnicity?: The Liminality of Deaf People in Literature (Panel)


Comparative Literature / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Rachel Mazique (Rochester Institute of Technology)

The appearance of Sign Language Peoples (SLPs), or signing Deaf peoples in literature (and film) creates liminal spaces in-between Hearing and Deaf cultures that foreground the invisible “hearing line” (Krentz 2007). As cultural understandings of Deaf people involve “Deafnicity,” or the nexus of language, community, and ontology that create ethnic identities for Deaf people (Eckert 2010), this session asks for consideration of various forms of intersectional Deafnicity, or the ways in which Deafnicity coexists with other ethnic identities (Mazique 2017). How may the unifying and transnational conceptualization of Deafnicity not only promote “sameness” or the experience of “DEAF-SAME” and similitude among SLPs from different nations, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses, but also recognize intersectional SLPs who not only experience Deafnicity but also other ethnic identities (Moges 2015; Friedner and Kusters 2015)? How does literature with deaf characters depict intersectional and/or transnational forms of Deafnicity? Is Deafnicity transnational as Victorian literary scholar Jennifer Esmail (2013) and historian Joseph Murray (2008) seem to suggest in their respective studies on transatlantic and transnational forms of contact? What is the place of deaf people in literature with consideration of ethnic studies, disability studies, and/or deaf studies? How may the appearance of (intersectional) deaf people in literature create liminal spaces of transcultural exchange that disrupt dominant discourses? In other words, how may the liminality of deaf people in literature not only challenge traditional notions of history, territory, and identity, but also illustrate pathways for social change desired by various humanistic disciplines?

The appearance of Sign Language Peoples (SLPs), or signing Deaf characters, in literature (and film) creates liminal spaces in the representation of Hearing and Deaf cultures that foreground the invisible “hearing line” (Krentz 2007). Considering cultural understandings of Deafnicity as the nexus of language, community, and ontology that create ethnic identities for Deaf people, this session asks for consideration of various forms of intersectional Deafnicity; that is to say, the ways in which Deafnicity coexists with other ethnic identities. What is the place of deaf people in literature with relation to ethnic studies, disability studies, and/or deaf studies? How may the liminality of deaf people in literature not only challenge traditional notions of history, territory, and identity, but also illustrate pathways for social change desired by various humanistic disciplines?