A recently published article that might be of interest to visual anthropologists...
Abstract: This paper investigates issues of identity, belonging and visual communication among deaf people in Japan. It is influenced by two texts that explore Judith Butler’s work on the relationship between identity and performance. Performativity and Belonging, edited by Vikki Bell (1999), examines how identities are produced, embodied and performed especially through the politics of visuality. Deaf people seem to be an appropriate group to explore the claim that visual performances can be read the same as written texts. Critical Divides: Judith Butler’s Body Theory and the Question of Disability by Ellen Samuels (2002) examines disability as a category of critical analysis and ponders whether the performance of disability can determine identity in ways similar to the performance of gender, sexuality and race elaborated Butler’s work. So-called clinics designed to teach and propagate “correct” ways of communication and expression in the Deaf World are common in contemporary Japan; deaf students/participants are often chided for signing in a “hearing” manner and encouraged to act “more deaf.” Ethnographic examples of deaf people illustrating both deficit (disability/social welfare) and cultural (bilingual and bicultural minority) models will be utilized to explore these theoretical ideas. In particular, the performance of the visual communication of sign language in everyday life, lectures, workshops and entertainment venues will provide context for the exploration of deaf identities and belonging.
Key words: Deaf, Japanese Sign Language, performance, visual communication, identity, disability
Fedorowicz, Steven C. (2013) How to Play Deaf in Japan, Journal of Intercultural Studies No. 38, Intercultural Research Institute, Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan.