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Sign language-medium education in the global South

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journal contribution
posted on 21.11.2022, 19:52 authored by Kristian Ali, Ben Braithwaite, Ian Dhanoolal, Kristin SnoddonKristin Snoddon

[p.1]: "Much research regarding sign language-medium education for deaf learners has taken place in the global North, which has often been regarded as a source of expert knowledge about deaf education and sign languages (Branson & Miller, 2004; Moriarty Harrelson, 2019). This special issue focuses on education for deaf learners in the global South as a site of knowledge production. This issue highlights contributions from researchers and practitioners from the global South who study the need for, implementation, and progress of programmes for deaf learners that utilise a national sign language as a medium of instruction. The term “national sign language” is used by the World Federation of the Deaf to refer to one or several sign languages that are part of the linguistic ecology of a country (J. J. Murray, personal communication, December 3, 2020). While the global South is not a static category (Friedner, 2017), this term refers to histories of exclusion (Pennycook & Makoni, 2020). In the context of deaf education, the term also refers to sites that have been subject to certain “prescriptivist modernization programs focused on introducing global North models of deaf education” and global North sign languages and sign systems (Moriarty, 2020, p. 198). In these contexts for intervention, certain historical figures, such as Frances Parsons, loom large. Parsons, a deaf professor of art history from Gallaudet University who became a US Peace Corps consultant, was a proponent of Total Communication as a system of sign-supported speech. In the 1970s and 1980s, she visited countries in South America, the AsiaPacific region, and Africa to promote the use of Total Communication as a sign system related to ASL (Moriarty, 2020; Scott & Henner, 2021). The ongoing impact of Parson’s efforts in these contexts, where an ASL-based sign system sometimes displaces the use of Indigenous national sign languages in classrooms with deaf children, is illustrative of the risks inherent to intervening in signing communities outside of the global North (Braithwaite, 2020). As well, regarding the global South as a locus for intervention by global North researchers risks positioning sign-language medium (or bilingual) education for deaf children as an invention of white people (Bell, 2006)."

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