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date: 05 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article provides an overview of the field of Deaf Studies, as it has emerged in the latter part of the 20th century, and then provides a new rhetorical frame for future directions that this field may take in the 21st century. Historically, Deaf Studies and Deaf communities have been put on the defensive, as they have been constructed within frames of “deafness as lack” and “disability.” Within these constructions, attempts to rid society of deafness have been conducted as “progress,” whether through 19th- and early 20th-century eugenics, or contemporary medical interventions and denial of signed languages in deaf education. The result has been a precipitous decline in the usage of sign language among deaf children at a time when, ironically, research shows cognitive benefits of sign language for hearing children. A vigorous response to the human right of sign language education for deaf children can best be found in reframing deafness, not as a lack, but as a form of human diversity capable of making vital contributions to the greater good of society. We refer to this notion as the opposite of hearing loss: Deaf-gain. This article explores the cognitive, creative, and cultural aspects of Deaf-gain, with specific examples, from discoveries about the human capacity for language, advances in visual learning, and creative insights into architecture, literature, and collectivist cultural patterns. In the end, deaf people may be seen through a lens of human diversity and, therefore, worth valuing as they are, without recourse to ‘normalization.’

Keywords: bioethics, Deaf-gain, Deaf studies, human diversity, language death

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