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Belonging

An Autoethnography of a Life in Sign Language

Noel O'Connell

This book weaves intensely personal and evocative stories into a layered autoethnographic text about the author’s experience of childhood deafness, sign language and education. Interwoven with the performative narrative are powerful stories of stigma, trauma, friendships, relationships, love, isolation and displacement. Using interpretative and reflective analysis, the author explores the storied experience of self and belonging in family and school contexts, providing both personal and theoretical perspectives on language and culture. He traces the pathways he has taken in pursuit of a true sense of belonging in society, community and place.

This is an important contribution to the study of sign language, deaf education, disability and deaf health and well-being. It will be of interest to professionals and practitioners working with deaf children and parents and to students and researchers within social policy, social medicine, psychology, sociology, early childhood studies and special education.

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Chapter 4: Watching the Watchers: Evocative Stories and Surveillance Matters

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Chapter 4 Watching the Watchers: Evocative Stories and Surveillance Matters All knowledge rests upon injustice — Michel Foucault (1977, p. 163) In order for a theory to find its place in education, that theory must inevi- tably have practical value that is constructed through personal experience. — Lisa J. Starr (2010, p. 2) Writing Evocative Stories What follows are evocative stories that present snapshots of my personal experience of childhood in St Joseph’s. What counts for experience is shaped by oralism, surveillance and systematic segregation. Writing evocative stories involves an active construction of myself for a particular purpose; that is, to showcase how I experienced and felt emotionally about oral- ism. I show how it shaped my identity. I construct myself through writing about sign language and deaf culture under the constraints imposed by surveillance methods. These aspects of my life evolve around places like the classroom, the confession chamber, the school yard, the play hall and dining room. What makes my stories evocative is how I write emotion- ally about what happened within these particular locations. The narrative is layered in the emotionality of personal stories, theory and analysis and written in a style characterised by Denzin (2014, pp. 10–11) as “embodied, evocative, inconclusive, and open-ended as well as nervous, hesitant and stuttering, which moves from one charged moment to the next with a 78 Chapter 4 sense of urgency”. I write in this way to capture the essence of my personal experiences. My memories of them which are not...

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