A Lens on Deaf Identities

| April 28, 2011

Title: A Lens on Deaf Identities

Author: Leigh, Irene W.

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Call No.: HV2395 .L35 2009

From the Publisher:

Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals develop their identities within environments that convey and reinforce preconceived assumptions of disability and of deafness, thereby encouraging particular ways of accommodating individuals’ hearing status. These assumptions ultimately influence the evolution of their identities and in turn their psychological well-being. This notion is particularly important within societies that frame deaf or hard-of-hearing persons as living in a “prison of silence” (a metaphor the media uses frequently when extolling the virtues of cochlear implants) or which view them in one-dimensional perspectives– rather than recognizing that there are many ways to be deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Many factors, some ever-present and some that have emerged in recent years, impact the unique identities of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals today. These factors, which are explored in A Lens on Deaf Identities, include explanatory paradigms that frame how deaf and hard-of-hearing people are understood within the context of disability and sociolinguistics; the relatively recent formal recognition of a Deaf culture and the emergence of bicultural frames of reference; the appearance of deaf identity theories in the psychological literature; the influence of families and schools, historical and social contexts; the acknowledgement of diversity in this population; and the technology that affects the identity of deaf people in potentially unexpected ways (e.g., cochlear implants as bionic ears, telecommunications that bring deaf people together with each other as well as with hearing people, and advances in genetics with implications for parental decision-making about hearing status and the acceptability of hearing differences). This book uses personal experiences, theoretical formulations, and research data to examine interfaces within and between each of these areas and how the tensions emerging at these junctures influence deaf and hard-of-hearing identity formation in complex, multifaceted ways that defy pervasive stereotypes of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. A Lens on Deaf Identities will appeal to students and professional researchers in deaf studies and deaf education, as well as those interested in identity formation in the presence of “disability”.

  • – Multifaceted perspectives on deaf and hard-of-hearing identities
  • – Examination of various influences on deaf and hard-of-hearing identity formation
  • – Focus on diversity within the deaf and hard-of-hearing population
  • – Examination of theories covering deaf and hard-of-hearing identity development
  • – Part of Oxford’s Perspectives on Deafness series


“In this most comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of identity and identity development among deaf and hard-of-hearing people, Leigh richly compiles, compares, contrasts, and critiques the existing research and literature. She capably debates the appropriateness of traditional and racial/ethnic identity development theories, their strengths and weaknesses and their utility for applications to the identities and identity development of deaf people…The author is open, honest, and provocative in her presentation, taking bold steps to address and mediate controversial issues in identity and identity politics…The book respects and balances the multiple realities and experiences of individuals and the complex forces that contribute to these realities…This is a sincere, validating, and courageous stance against a backdrop of multiple competing social tensions, which renders the book an important source of critical community dialogue.”–PsycCRITIQUES

“Like peeling a multi-layered onion, Dr. Irene Leigh gets to the ‘core’ of the complex concept of identity formation of d/Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Her recognition that identities can’t be ‘boxed in by categories of prescriptive deaf identity categories’ will make this a pivotal book for all who write about deaf people.”–CHOICE

About the Author: Web page at Gallaudet University

On the Web:  Deaf Culture Online