Tuesday, January 30, 2007

396: Wednesday Morning News and Coffee Roundup

Some news from England:
COURAGEOUS Oliver Westbury is launching an expedition to become the first deaf person to reach the North Pole on foot. Oliver will trek 70 miles through one of the world's most hostile landscapes to raise money for deaf children.
But before he can start planning the challenge of a lifetime he needs to raise £27,000.
Want to help him reach his goal? Click here and donate!

And speaking of England, University of Bristol PhD student Mike Gulliver has started his own blog, about his Deaf Studies research. Already he's posted links to lots of interesting information about Deaf communities worldwide, providing a refreshing change from American Deaf Culture:
Hi also to Miles who has mailed me about a presentation I’m doing this Friday at CDS in Bristol on ‘Who owns Deaf history’. Miles is the author of a vast amount of research into the Deaf community in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. There is a great reference bibliography here , information on South and South-West Asia, on Africa, and the Ottoman Court. Along with Groce’s information on Martha’s Vineyard, this is amazing stuff on early Deaf communities…

I've been reading up, especially on the African Deaf link. Here's a taste of some of the fascinating material available from Miles through the links above:
Some Saharan folk tales from Mali, involving a deaf wife, seem to emphasise the need for patience and understanding (Calame-Griaule, 1987, pp. 452-54, 459, 468), rather than assuming stupidity. While African folklore often links disability or deafness with negative or pejorative beliefs (Odebiyi & Togonu-Bickersteth, 1987; Devlieger, 1994; Sarr, 1981), the physician and ethnographer Hugh Stannus (1910, pp. 299-300) noted a more neutral or positive belief in Nyasaland. The mzimu, which is "a good spirit and does no harm", leaves a dying person's body and goes upward (heavenward, to Mlungu). "The only people to visit Mlungu and come back are occasionally children who die, for a short time their mzimu goes to Mlungu and returns; they live again, but are deaf-mutes."
I've always been fascinated with the concept of a Deaf spirituality. For myself, spirituality has nothing to do with religion or gods, but rather how we try to understand each others' spirit. We each have personality, memories, a reality and perception of our own. How can we possibly understand another person's mind, without being that person? Stories, poetry, literature, art, vlogs are all attempts to do so - and so is research into history and anthropology, which by analyzing what people leave behind, tries to reconstruct the people themselves. Miles' research gives us an interesting glimpse into a not-often-seen literature:
The Kenyan author James Ngugi (Ngugi wa Thiong'o) wrote into A Grain of Wheat (1971, pp. 6-7) an admirable young deaf labourer, Gitogo, "handsome, strongly built", popular with other young men, who cared for his elderly mother, and "spoke with his hands". During a government raid on Gitogo's village, he ran to protect his mother. A soldier shouted "Stop!". Gitogo ran on and was shot. Apparently that character was based on Ngugi's own deaf step-brother Gitogo, shot by government troops in 1954 or 1955. [10] The lengthier battles of an intelligent Ghanaian woman, deafened in early adulthood, are depicted in a largely autobiographical novelette by Frances Serwaa Oteng (1997), set amidst the petty politics of a boarding school for deaf children.
Fascinating. Check out this research - and do give Mike and Miles a shout-out from America - after all, the Deaf nation has many tribes!


moi said...

Wow - so cool! As a student of deaf culture and deaf history, this is quite a find. Thank you so much for sharing! =D

merfz in da h00d said...

most edifying!

Mr. Sandman said...

Miles' work adds quite a bit to Deaf History-- I was already aware of some of Miles' papers; my co-lecturer and I have introduced some of this material in our lectures at CSUN. Thanks for posting and sharing with the rest of the deaf blogosphere!