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postgraduate thesis: Sign language and the moral government of deafness in antebellum America

TitleSign language and the moral government of deafness in antebellum America
Authors
Issue Date2014
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Wang, C. [王超]. (2014). Sign language and the moral government of deafness in antebellum America. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5481910
AbstractMany Deaf people today consider themselves a linguistic minority with a culture distinct from the mainstream hearing society. This is in large part because they communicate through an independent language——American Sign Language (ASL). However, two hundreds years ago, sign language was a “common language” for communication between hearing and deaf people within the institutional framework of “manualism.” Manualism is a pedagogical system of sign language introduced mainly from France in order to buttress the campaign for deaf education in the early-19th-century America. In 1817, a hearing man Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851) and a deaf Frenchman Laurent Clerc (1785-1869) co-founded the first residential school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. These early manualists shaped sign language within the evangelical framework of “moral government.” They believed that the divine origin of signs would lead the spiritual redemption of people who could not hear. Inside manual institutions, the religiously defined practice of signing, which claimed to transform the “heathen deaf” into being the “signing Christian,” enabled the process of assimilation into a shared “signing community.” The rapid expansion of manual institutions hence fostered a strong and separate deaf culture that continues to influence today’s deaf communities in the United States. However, social reformers in the mid-nineteenth century who advocated “oralism” perceived manualism as a threat to social integration. “Oralists” pursued a different model of deaf education in the 1860s, campaigning against sign language and hoping to replace it entirely with the skills in lip-reading and speech. The exploration of this tension leads to important questions: Were people who could not hear “(dis)abled” in the religious context of the early United States? In what ways did the manual institutions train students to become “able-bodied” citizens? How did this religiously framed pedagogy come to terms with the “hearing line” in the mid 19th century? In answering these questions, this dissertation analyzes the early history of manual education in relation to the formation and diffusion of religious governmentality, a topic that continues to influence deaf culture to this day.
DegreeMaster of Philosophy
SubjectDeaf - Education - United States - History - 19th century
Deaf - Means of communication - United States - History - 19th century
American Sign Language
Dept/ProgramModern Languages and Cultures
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/211119

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorWang, Chao-
dc.contributor.author王超-
dc.date.accessioned2015-07-07T23:10:41Z-
dc.date.available2015-07-07T23:10:41Z-
dc.date.issued2014-
dc.identifier.citationWang, C. [王超]. (2014). Sign language and the moral government of deafness in antebellum America. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5481910-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/211119-
dc.description.abstractMany Deaf people today consider themselves a linguistic minority with a culture distinct from the mainstream hearing society. This is in large part because they communicate through an independent language——American Sign Language (ASL). However, two hundreds years ago, sign language was a “common language” for communication between hearing and deaf people within the institutional framework of “manualism.” Manualism is a pedagogical system of sign language introduced mainly from France in order to buttress the campaign for deaf education in the early-19th-century America. In 1817, a hearing man Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851) and a deaf Frenchman Laurent Clerc (1785-1869) co-founded the first residential school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. These early manualists shaped sign language within the evangelical framework of “moral government.” They believed that the divine origin of signs would lead the spiritual redemption of people who could not hear. Inside manual institutions, the religiously defined practice of signing, which claimed to transform the “heathen deaf” into being the “signing Christian,” enabled the process of assimilation into a shared “signing community.” The rapid expansion of manual institutions hence fostered a strong and separate deaf culture that continues to influence today’s deaf communities in the United States. However, social reformers in the mid-nineteenth century who advocated “oralism” perceived manualism as a threat to social integration. “Oralists” pursued a different model of deaf education in the 1860s, campaigning against sign language and hoping to replace it entirely with the skills in lip-reading and speech. The exploration of this tension leads to important questions: Were people who could not hear “(dis)abled” in the religious context of the early United States? In what ways did the manual institutions train students to become “able-bodied” citizens? How did this religiously framed pedagogy come to terms with the “hearing line” in the mid 19th century? In answering these questions, this dissertation analyzes the early history of manual education in relation to the formation and diffusion of religious governmentality, a topic that continues to influence deaf culture to this day.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshDeaf - Education - United States - History - 19th century-
dc.subject.lcshDeaf - Means of communication - United States - History - 19th century-
dc.subject.lcshAmerican Sign Language-
dc.titleSign language and the moral government of deafness in antebellum America-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5481910-
dc.description.thesisnameMaster of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelMaster-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineModern Languages and Cultures-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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