Retoriska strider : Konkurrerande sanningar i dövvärlden

Sammanfattning: In the last couple of decades a particular interpretation of deaf and deafness has been established in ‘official’ arenas in Sweden. Deaf individuals, according to this view, should not be seen as disabled, but rather as belonging to a cultural and linguistic minority. Such views find expression in a locally established usage that may be termed a deaf culture discourse. Discourse can be seen as a restriction on the possibilities for expression, but also as a resource. It exists as an ever present debate that can be drawn on in conversation and argument. A discourse may, as is the case with deaf issues, be clear and pervasive. It is not unchanging, however. The process of calling it into question gives rise to modifications of already established truths, and generates new forms of expression. This is what has happened with the arrival in the deaf community of a new group: children with cochlear implants, and their parents. Cochlear implantation is a surgical operation intended to give a deaf person the chance to experience sound with the help of electrical signals. It should be pointed out that the results do not equate to ‘normal’ hearing. Operations on deaf children have given rise to strong protest in the deaf movement and even in professional circles, particularly amongst the teaching profession. The fear is that, as before, greater priority will be given to speech than to sign language. Now we can see that a different way of talking about deafness is under construction, one that largely challenges the deaf culture perspective. Alternative forms of expression - in which cochlear implants can be described in positive terms, and deafness as a disability - take shape in an ongoing dialogue with the deaf culture discourse. Resistance to the operation forces parents to take a line that answers both earlier criticism and future objections. Slogans such as ‘the best of two worlds’, meaning sign language and speech, are coined, and statements are made to the effect that children with cochlear implants are offered freedom of choice. Faced with alternative choices of words, arguments, and phrases, the established discourse is forced into a dialogue. In the first instance this thesis does not deal with deaf issues as such. Instead, events are analysed in terms of an established discourse vis-à-vis the construction of an alternative discourse. There is an appreciable power potential in language, in discourse. The one who ‘owns’ and commands an established discourse also possesses power and control. With an alternative discourse, the advocates of cochlear implantation have carved out a place in the deaf world. They now demand to be treated as ‘one of the team’ rather than bowing to those who speak the language of deaf culture. The thesis is based on qualitative material: tape-recorded interviews and group discussions, newspaper articles, ‘internal’ literature, observational data.

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