Deaf Culture as Locus of Religious Identity: Ethnographic Study of a Residential School for DEAF in Pakistan
Keywords:Deaf Culture, Deafhood, Identity, Religion, Personal Experience Narratives (PENs)
This research paper builds upon ethnographic fieldwork carried out as doctoral research at Pakistan’s largest public sector Special education premises for the Deaf at its capital Islamabad. Sign Languages at large defines the identity and representation for the Deaf communities round the globe, which makes them the largest minority of the world comprising 72 million people communicating through more than 300 sign languages. The relationship of Religion and language has gained repute in anthropological literature since the early developments in subject but with specific reference to signing communities or deaf people, the corpus of anthropology still remains scant. In this paper, the functional domain of religion within the deaf community is explored from emic perspective through 33 Deaf narratives. The findings are carried out as analysis of themes and sub themes thus emerged from the narratives which were recorded in sign language in the presence of an interpreter. Transcription of video recorded narratives in English was later revisited by the respondents to maximize their ownership in the written expression. The themes located were causes of one’s deafness, oralism (Policy to teach deaf to do lip reading and learn to speak instead of signing), Audism (A belief that deaf are inferior to hearing ones), religion, education, community, conflict, authority, access, and continuity and change. The thick description of how abstraction of religion shifts to signed symbols and how these notions interplay in daily life of deaf residents at a deaf-space intends to add on into the existing scholarly pool on Deaf Culture.