oa Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus - Construction of deaf narrative identity in creative South African Sign Language - research

Volume 2020 Number 59
  • ISSN : 1726-541X
  • E-ISSN: 2224-3380



In this article, we observe how deaf narrative identities emerge in creative South African Sign Language (SASL) texts. We first identify how difficulties in establishing deaf cultural identities in the hearing-dominant audist world are represented in the “Man against Monster” plot (Booker 2004) commonly employed in sign language narratives. Then, we use De Certeau’s (1984) notion of ‘place versus space’ and Heap’s (2003) notion of ‘Sign-deaf space’ (plus our own term of “mediated Sign-speak space”) to explore how deaf artists transform the Monster (i.e. the oppressive hearing place) into deafhood and deaf space, which leads to the celebration of sign language and deaf culture. We also demonstrate how the recent notion of ‘sensescape’, coined by Rosen (2018), can be applied to the construction of deaf narrative identity. The Monster in deaf stories can be understood not only in terms of the audist ideology but also in terms of different sensory orientations between deaf and hearing characters. We conclude that creative texts provide a wealth of opportunities to explore how narrative identities are constructed. In fictional stories, deaf narrators step back from being themselves, and extract the essence of their shared experience and sublimate it into a search for deafhood. Various notions developed within the field of deaf studies – such as ‘deafhood’, ‘deaf space’ and, ‘deaf geographies’ – are useful in (re-)interpreting existing texts and shedding a new light on them.

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