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In 19th Century France Deaf-Mutes Were Classified Assignment

Deaf Identity and Social Images
in Nineteenth-Century France

From H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online

Within the deaf world, whether locally, nationally, or internationally, one of the most debated and contested issues is the way deaf people are identified, both by themselves and by others. In this book, Anne T. Quartararo addresses the way in which a collective and internal deaf identity emerged in France during the nineteenth century, and she investigates how this was influenced by and had an impact on external perceptions of deaf people, particularly those marginalized from society through their use of, and reliance on, sign language. In doing so, Quartararo produces some interesting insights by focusing on the development of deaf education in the country and through highlighting the short-lived but hugely important deaf banquets movement that flourished in the middle of the century.

Although a comparatively short book (the substantive text runs to less than two hundred pages), Quartararo manages to cover a range of factors in the development of deaf identity and draws on contemporary records of deaf schools and their administrators for much of her source material. She shows the direct links between the attitudes of the revolutionary authorities and the political infighting among deaf educators, and indeed deaf people themselves, about the methods employed within deaf schools and the consequences for the emergence of a collective deaf identity. The education of deaf children has always been a hugely contested topic, with debates and even open hostility between those supporting manual communication (signed languages in various forms) and those who argue that the main purpose of deaf education should be to prepare deaf children to live, work, and communicate in a predominantly hearing and speech based world (known as oralists). Quartararo shows the way in which the revolutionary authorities initially supported signed education for deaf children when this began to emerge on a large-scale basis in the early nineteenth century. In doing so, the authorities were promoting their agenda of equality for all, but they were also heavily influenced by the work of the first great educator of deaf children, Abbé Charles-Michel de l’Épée. A proponent of the eradication of social disadvantage through adequate and appropriate education, de l’Épée founded his own school for deaf children in the mid-eighteenth century and he achieved great success in teaching deaf children to read, write, and speak. He arranged public demonstrations of the abilities of his most successful pupils, which helped to show that, rather than being uneducable savages, through the use of signs and gesture as a means of education, deaf people could achieve educational success on par with their hearing counterparts. De l’Épée based his teaching on the use of signs, many of them devised by him but also drawing on the natural signs used by his deaf pupils, as the basis for developing written language literacy among his pupils. From this it was then possible for many of his pupils to learn to speak in a clear and intelligible manner, employing high levels of French-language knowledge and understanding. Following his death in 1789, de l’Épée’s work was continued by his protégé Abbé Sicard who succeeded de l’Épée as director of the Paris Institute for Deaf-Mutes (Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris). When the revolutionary government turned its attention to deaf education as a means of ensuring deaf people could enjoy the full benefits of the new social order, it came out strongly on the side of signed based education. However, despite the success of the Paris Institute, internal divisions and power struggles among deaf educators, combined with the rise of strict oralism in Germany and other European countries under the influence of Methodist values, ultimately placed signed based education under serious threat. In addition, the restoration of the monarchy in France in the mid-nineteenth century, before a return to republican rule in 1870, saw official attitudes toward the most appropriate communication methods for deaf education undergo radical change.

Quartararo sets these changes in deaf education within the wider social changes within France during this period and demonstrates how these influenced educational provision. In turn, these reflected the altering perspectives on the role of the state in supporting deaf people and ultimately the attitude of the state toward the capabilities of deaf people as productive members of society. Quartararo illustrates how arguments against separate deaf schools in favor of what would now be classed as “mainstreaming”--the placement of deaf children within classes of hearing children--was predicated on the need to impose respect for authority and discipline within the classroom, in order that these deaf pupils would ultimately become respectable members of society. Little mention was made of their educational needs and what was best for them in this respect, and this represented a radical alteration in official attitudes. As with so many other countries across Europe and beyond, the 1880 Congress of Milan was to see oral education become the norm in state-funded deaf education, although signed based education was not eradicated completely as many opponents of oralism claim. The Congress of Milan was a gathering of influential deaf educators who argued that it was the duty of all educators to ensure that deaf children were taught to speak clearly and to read and write. Sign language had no role to play in deaf education, despite the successes of de l’Épée and his successors, as the use of sign was seen to mitigate against the development of spoken language and was only to be used for those who were seen as academic failures under the oralist philosophy. Although not representing governments as such, the delegates at the Milan Congress represented huge political influence and the effects of Milan were felt immediately. Quartararo shows how the supposedly egalitarian principles of the republican government in France were conveniently ignored when it came to deaf children and oralist education was imposed across the country. The golden age of signed education in France was well and truly over. Quartararo tells this part of the story in a largely narrative style, but this nevertheless draws on her source material very effectively to underpin both the story and the arguments she puts forward in terms of the effects on deaf people.

Despite all these negative perceptions and impacts on deaf education, Quartararo goes on to outline the growth of deaf organizations, run by deaf people to support each other and to promote more positive images of themselves, both to each other and to the wider world. These emerged as the successors to the deaf banquets that had taken place mostly in Paris from the 1830s onward. Originally a fraternal gathering of deaf people, these were subsequently promoted as deliberate responses to the negative perceptions of deaf people, which celebrated through the use of sign language the unique culture of deaf sign language users. The first banquet was arranged in 1834 to celebrate the anniversary of de l’Épée’s birth, and Quartararo shows how the banquets went on to provide a public identity for deaf people, to which prominent hearing people were invited. Although the movement lasted little more than fifteen years before internal divisions once again brought about its demise, a collective deaf identity in France had been established and would not die out with the banquets. Instead, a number of regional and national organizations to promote the views and wishes of deaf people emerged, and as the nineteenth century drew to a close, these culminated in a number of international gatherings of deaf people in France, which served as the model for similar events in other countries.

Quartararo is to be congratulated for producing an interesting and illuminating insight into the development of deaf identity in France. Not only does she provide a detailed picture of the factors that influenced this development, but she also shows the way a number of external factors that have not been previously considered had major impacts. The changing attitudes of revolutionary and republican governments and the restored monarchy all played major roles in the education provided for deaf people. These in turn affected the development of deaf political activism and identity as responses to the conditions deaf people found themselves subjected to and their disadvantaged and discriminated position within wider French society. In writing this book, Quartararo also underlines the important but somewhat neglected contribution deaf people in France have played in the emergence of a broader conception of deaf identity that crosses artificially constructed national and political boundaries and that focuses more on shared deafness and all that this brings with it in terms of shared outlooks and experiences. This is a fascinating book that will be of interest to everyone interested in deaf education, disability politics, community formation, and a wide range of other disciplines.

Anne T. Quartararo is Professor of History at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.

ISBN 978-1-56368-367-1, 6 x 9 casebound, 300 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index


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Have you ever learned sign language? Or do you have an acquaintance whose main communication method is sign language? Most people consider sign language to be a communication method only for the hearing-impaired or people with speech disorders. Sign language, however can be a passage of communication that bridges a language barrier in a multiracial nation. Recently, a movement that sublimates sign language to a work of art by depicting the sign language motions has also been gradually activated. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) informs the necessity of sign language along with the inconveniences of deaf-mutes, and covers the tasks ahead that should be tackled in order to improve deaf-mutes’ rights.

Introduction of Deaf-Mutism

Deaf-Mutism, What Is It?

In a broad sense, deaf-mutism is an impairment that affects both hearing and speaking. To be more specific, people who cannot phonate due to hearing impairments are considered to be in a state of deaf-mutism. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as of 2015, 27 million citizens were suffering from deaf-mutism. Although they vary depending on the severity of the hearing impairment, there are four main methods through which deaf-mutes communicate.

Ways Deaf-Mutes Communicate

The methods are mainly classified into four different ways, shown in the following chart.

Conversation by writing: Asking and answering questions by writing

Speech reading: To read language visually, watching the movements of speaker’s mouth

Oral method: Communication method that is implemented by phonation

Sign language: Movement of hands and arms used to communicate instead of phonation

There are more detailed explanations that derive from the above four methods.

Manual method: It is often called a comprehensive language in that it includes the movement and location of fingers and arms, and even the motion of lips and facial expressions.

Oralism: Method used to teach deaf-mutes how to phonate after understanding the speaker’s lip movements, using residual hearing.

What is distinctive about oralism is that it does not stop at simply imitating the shape of the speaker’s mouth, but actually leads to phonation.

Simultaneous method: A method that use both the oral method and manual method at the same time.

It is usually used when deaf-mutes have difficulty phonating the words properly.

Rochester method: An education method that induces deaf-mutes to gradually phonate and learn languages, starting from finger spelling.

bloter.net/Image of Finger Spelling

Why Is Sign Language Necessary?

Limitations of Other Communication Methods

Writing is often considered to be just enough to communicate with deaf-mutes. There are indeed some cases where conversation through the writing method is effective, if the deaf-mute has received formal education. In most cases, however, deaf-mutes have trouble expressing their thought into words. In the case of speech reading, problems arise due to homonyms and the fact that speech reading is only suitable for extremely short and simple terms. In order to master spoken language, deaf-mutes must go through vocal exercises which are nearly impossible for them to learn. Especially for a deaf-mute who experiences hearing loss that cannot be helped with a hearing aid, oralism is not suitable in the first place, as they have never heard how people pronounce words and they do not know how to differentiate between certain intonations.

For Human Rights

Historically, deaf education has the longest tradition compared to other special educations. Deaf education was first implemented in 1760 by De L’Eppe, who established a school for deaf-mutes in France and offered them sign language education. Nevertheless, deaf-mutes were discriminated against due to prejudice and superstitions, which hindered deaf education from being accepted as formal education.

As time passed, a number of hearing-impaired heroes like Helen Keller, who graduated from Harvard Radcliffe College as an honor student, proved the efficiency of sign language education. Influenced by his deaf-mute mother, one of the most renowned inventors, Bell, also established a school for deaf-mutes and tried hard to spread sign language education. Along with the effort of such people, the development of science such as the invention of the hearing aid and auditory training technology contributed to the rise of sign language’s standing at the end of the 19th century. These days, sign language is expected to be an integrated education which helps deaf-mutes to lead life as a member of society. By maximizing their sign language skills, deaf-mutes can become experts in their unique fields. Sign language is an effective form of communication not only between deaf-mutes, but also between deaf-mutes and abled people. If there is an unexpected conflict with other people, sign language can be a mean for deaf-mutes to express their stance and protect themselves.

Incomplete Settlement of Sign Languagein Daily Lives for Deaf-Mutes


Since August 4, 2016, the Korean Sign Language Law, meant to provide a foundation for the development of sign language and improve the quality of sign language users’ lives, has first been implemented. The law states that sign language is an official language among deaf-mutes in Korea and guarantees deaf-mutes’ rights for information access, education, and language. Furthermore, the law includes the continuous research of sign language and the establishment of education for deaf-mutes to improve their sign language and Korean language proficiency. The law also specifies certain designation requirements for sign language institutes to promote Korean sign language propagation. Nevertheless, strong criticisms are arising following the implementation of the law. There are a few reasons why people are in distrust of this law. Firstly, when the government started to draft the law, it simply took the Framework Act on the National Language as it is, focusing on abled people. Therefore, some people insist that the law does not seem to be concerning deaf-mutism. Secondly, because the Korean Sign Language Law concentrates only on education and related institutions, it seems to be a legislation regulating sign language education, rather than a law focusing on sign language and its users. Adding to these problems, there is a lack of permanent organizations that play the role of deliberation and propagation.

news.chosun.com/Difficulty of Deaf-Mutes

Lack of Human Resources

Insufficient human resources are also a serious problem. For instance, in Yongsan District, there are over 900 deaf-mutes, but there are only three sign language interpreters assigned to the related organizations. These interpreters also need to help other areas’ deaf-mutes who come to Yongsan District to manage various tasks, according to the operation provision. On a city level, there are only five interpreters available at nights and on weekends in the entirety of Seoul, so the range of work that one interpreter must handle is broad. Additionally, some necessary institutions such as hospitals, banks, and government offices do not hire sign language interpreters, so the deaf-mutes have difficulty dealing with urgent tasks. Even worse, in special schools, the percentage of teachers who have sign language interpretation qualifications is only six percent. Therefore, sometimes, classes are proceeded just by drawing pictures or playing games, not learning new lessons. Even when deaf-mutes face difficulties in school, they do not turn to their teachers for help, and lose their desire to chase their dreams because sign language communication is not smooth.

Ways to Go Forward

Preservation of Sign Language Along with Bringing Deaf-Mutes Better Life

To preserve sign language, a continuous monitoring system must be established to check broadcasts which deliver inaccurate sign languages interpretations. To enhance the quality of deaf-mutes’ lives, the awareness should also be significantly improved. There are some parents who are worrying about the discrimination that could harass their deaf-mute children. The parents believe that if their deaf-mute children use sign language, abled people will discriminate against them. Furthermore, it is really important to incorporate sign language into society by making related textbooks and reinforcing the labor force like sign language teachers or interpreters. Recently, CGV, a Korean film distributor, has screened Train to Busan and Princess Deokhye in barrier-free versions, which have interpretation or sign language in a separate, smaller screen, albeit with insufficient installation. To reduce the inconvenience for deaf-mutes, cultural facilities like movie theaters should establish additional space for screen barrier-free movies. Meanwhile, the most important and simplest thing that abled people can do for deaf-mutes is to understand the frustration that deaf-mutes feel and wait for them to fully express themselves.

Notifications for Correct Sign Language Use

❶ The sign language motion should be ideally implemented at the range from chest height to both shoulders in a modest way.

❷ When using the finger sign language, you have to use only your right hand and do the motions slowly and clearly.

❸ In sign language, there are no honorifics, so you have to show politeness through your position and facial expressions.

❹ According to the location and direction of the hands, the gestures can take the opposite meaning of a word, so you have to be well informed on the location and direction of the hands.

weheartit.com/Sign Language Motions

The law which should have been passed and enforced long ago for deaf-mutes’ rights finally has been implemented on August 4 of this year. Although the voices of concern also exist, it is meaningful that a law was legislated for deaf-mutes’ right. It would be necessary to sublimate the attitude of indifference toward deaf-mutism and cultivate the attitude of acceptance towards sign language as another official language. The significance of this law does not come from the simple fact that it was passed, but rather from the roles of people who are going to conform to this law. Each individual’s little attention will have a positive influence on society.

강가은  ge0923@skku.edu

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