Acting Toward Social Change
Edited By David J. Connor, Jan W. Valle and Chris Hale
6. An “In-Betweener” Ethnographer: From Anxiety to Fieldwork Methods in a Cross-Cultural Study of Bilingual Deaf Kindergartners
JOSEPH MICHAEL VALENTE
Mid-morning on May 5, 2009, Fikriye Kurban, Joe Tobin, and I rendezvous near the Arizona State University campus and drive to central Phoenix where the Phoenix School for the Deaf is located. We make our way quickly through the parking lot in 115-degree desert heat, looking more like journalists than anthropologists with our bulky cameras and tripods, shotgun microphones, and bags of gear in tow. The deaf school, with its Southwest architecture and outdoor hallways, looks to me like any other school in Phoenix that I have ever visited. When we walk through the tinted lobby doors, a woman welcomes us from behind the counter, simultaneously signing and speaking, “Hello, are you here visiting someone?”
“Yes,” I say, “we’re here to film in Patrick’s kindergarten classroom.”
Handing over a guest book, she motions for us to fill in our names. People coming in and going out of the lobby look at us curiously. I’m guessing it is the equipment that is catching their attention. Then I realize that everyone is signing with one another. Our research team has no way to know what is being said. We are sign-impaired.
I am overcome by shame. I am deaf1 and the so-called deaf culture expert of the research team, yet I cannot sign much beyond fingerspelling and a handful of words that my fingers awkwardly fumble over. I push my hurt pride aside and occupy my mind with a...
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