Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

J. Terrence McCabe

Second Advisor

Dennis McGilvray

Third Advisor

Paul Shankman

Abstract

This dissertation explores the relationship between Tanzanian deaf people and mainstream society, as well as dynamics within deaf communities. I argue that deaf people who do participate in NGOs and other organizations that provide support to deaf people, do so strategically. In order to access services and improve their own lives and the lives of their families, deaf people in Tanzania move comfortably and fluidly between identity groups that are labeled as disabled or only as deaf. Through intentional use of the interventions provided by various organizations, deaf people are able to carve out deaf spaces that act as places for transmission of information, safe areas to learn and use sign language, and sites of network and community development among other deaf people. Through these deaf spaces and networks--formed around the safe and open use of sign language--deaf participants in these communities are better able to resist the imbalanced systems and find ways to survive, and in some cases thrive, in the context of structural, cultural, and economic oppression. Finally, I lay out quantitative and qualitative data that show that deaf people who participate in a signing community have better access to support networks, economic opportunities, and increased participation in public life.

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