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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Careful analysis of underexplored and neglected case studies demonstrates how an initial interest in the behavior and constitution of early-nineteenth-century deaf-blind persons gradually made possible a professional and impersonal approach. The deaf-blind person in the early nineteenth century had been a creature of mostly unrefined, but therefore authentic, sensory experience, whose reduction to the supposedly simpler senses of smell, touch, and taste made the basic nature of humankind appear more clearly. In contrast, the educated deaf-blind person later in the century was a vessel for the display of pedagogic expertise. The institutionalization of special education for deaf-blind persons in western Europe thus can be characterized by a shift from listening to the “sound” of deaf-blind persons to a mere repetition of the discursive “noise” of professionals.

Keywords: deaf-blindness, institutionalization, western Europe, education, professionalization, nineteenth century

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