The Deaf Body in Public Space
Rachel Kolb, a Rhodes scholar and doctoral student at Emory University with a focus on American literature, disability studies and bioethics, writes about her experiences with the differences between signing and hearing culture.
“To use sign language, to embrace it in non-signing public spaces, one must sometimes push against ideas of having committed a gross indiscretion.”
Too much: To me these words succinctly articulate the taboos that can linger about bodily expressiveness. Hearing culture presents us with ideals of speaking with good elocution, restraint and self-control. Now, I admit, I see these ideals as visually impoverished, inaccessible and uninteresting: They produce spaces full of immobile talking heads, disembodied sound and visual inattentiveness. Those qualities become the optical equivalent of speaking in a monotone. As much as I also enjoy spoken words, allowing my body to speak for itself feels, simply, more real. Even if that means signing is sometimes read as a visual spectacle.