(1981), Dan Graham talks about the paradoxes of rock performances in comparaison to theater : whereas theater is supposed to be the place of fiction (where the audience seems to agree that Hamlet is not in front of them), rock music proposes the experience of authenticity (where the audience see an individual showing is profound truth). Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness and the Body. She signs throughout the film, insisting on her right to remain silent, until one climactic scene when, under James’s badgering, she suddenly screeches out a stream of speech.Paradoxically, in order to build up this authenticity the performer needs to accumulate subtleties — costumes, make-up, props, sound devices, stage effects. It is a powerful scene because it is the first time the hearing audience has experienced her voice and realizes that she can speak but prefers not to. My Sense of Silence: Memoirs of a Childhood with Deafness. In the film version of Mark Medoff’s play, He falls in love with Sarah (Marlee Maitlin) who is deaf but who refuses to participate in his pedagogical project.

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By scandal, I mean that the eruption of speech (or, as we shall see, text) in Deaf performance challenges the conventional opposition of signing and speech and allows for more complex, hybrid combinations.

In the wake of the Deaf President Now protests (DPN) of 1988 at Gallaudet University and the launching of a powerful political movement for the empowering of Deaf persons, the use of speech-based pedagogies represents the continuing authority of hearing culture.

The attempt to reinforce oralist values by audiologists, psychologists, educators and legislators has been combated by an increasingly politicized social movement of the Deaf who regard themselves not as a handicapped population but as a linguistic minority with distinct cultural and historical traditions.

As Dirksen Bauman, Carol Padden, Tom Humphreys and others have observed, audism--the ideological replication of humans as hearing subjects--has influenced treatment of Deaf persons from the outset.

What James witnesses is a kind of deaf performative--a form of speech that enacts or performs rather than describes--its meaning contained not in the content of Sarah’s words (most of which are unrecognizable) but in the results the performance achieves in shaking his oralist bias.

In Henry Louis Gates’s terms, it signifies on speech as much as by means of it (44-88).For the hearing educator, speech is the key to normalization in hearing-based culture; for the Deaf signer, speech is the sign of an alienating process that only performing can make evident.I want to extend the concept of a Deaf performative to describe the work of Deaf language-artists for whom the use of speech and vocalization is a kind of scandal and who utilize that scandal to critical ends.The incarceration of the deaf in institutions, the denial of ASL as a language, the imposition of medical aids (cochlear implants, hearing aids), mainstreaming in education, punishment of children for manual signing--all constitute what Harlan Lane has called a “colonial” subjugation of the Deaf (31-8).A postcolonial regime is very much underway, and performance is one of its key venues.Humphreys and Padden refer to the portmanteau ASL sign for “think-hearing” which transfers the sign for “hearing” (a finger rotating near the mouth) to the region of the head in order to describe someone who “thinks and acts like a hearing person” or who uncritically embraces the ideology of others (53).