Familiar with the Deaf World: The Influence of Alexander Graham Bell and Oralism on the History of the North American Deaf Community



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This research examines the history of the North American deaf community over the past century and how the influence of Alexander Graham Bell, eugenics, and Oralism shaped the course of deaf history. Through the control of social, political, and education policies, the hearing public was able to institute a curriculum that replaced signed communication with a speech model aimed at teaching the deaf population to speak. The Oralists agenda sought to assimilate the deaf community into society by dissolving the communal bonds of linguistics and the control of deaf historiography. The deaf community eventually succeeded in gaining control of its own affairs through resistance and protest. The cultural identity of the deaf community was shaped by Oralism and influenced how the deaf community wrote its own history. Examining both the traditional hearing historiography and the emerging deaf historiography, the research seeks to blend the two into a single intersection narrative that tells the history of the deaf community through deaf and hearing perspectives. It was discovered that the history of the deaf was controlled by the hearing community and that the response of the deaf community was both reactionary and biased. Emerging deaf historians have set about correcting this history and have changed the academic landscape of deaf studies.



Eugenics, Oralism, Manualism, Correct speech, Elocution, Phonetics, Cultural deafness, Linguistics, Identity, Signed exact English, American sign language, Cultural genocide, Historiography, Hearing, Deaf