Deaf human rights activism in practice : the tension between disability and cultural approaches to deafness

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Karla, Valerie
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Deaf people are commonly considered as people with a disability, but many rather consider themselves as belonging to a linguistic and cultural minority. These distinct constructions entail different human rights issues and argumentation in people’s daily lives. This thesis examines deaf human rights activism in practice and analyses the tension between the two concepts of disability and culture. The interdisciplinary approach, with an anthropological focus, contributes to an understanding of the practice of localising international discussions. It will help to grasp the meaning of “deaf culture” and important developments in the disability rights movement. The presented cases of ‘Cochlear Implants’ and ‘Deaf Education’ – with empirical material from Austria – represent currently important issues for deaf human rights activism in Europe. The examination of their context and use of argumentation will help to analyse the applicability of the disability and culture concepts in practice. It further shows the potentials and limits of both approaches for deaf human rights activism. The thesis aims to contribute to a better understanding of the needs and expectations in the practice of deaf human rights activism, in order to ensure that the various experiences and needs of deaf people are taken into consideration.
Second semester University: University of Copenhagen.
deaf persons, linguistic minorities, people with disabilities