American University
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Fear in the tellin': The silence, suffering, and survival of deaf professional women

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:12 authored by Kathleen J. Grant

Entering the secretive world of deaf professional women (DPW), I obtained their career life stories to learn who deaf professional women are, and what workplace issues they face. My linguistic methodology used text as an entry point for exploring relationships between culture and power and their effects on the experiences of deaf professional women. Silverman's (1993) analytic induction method and text analysis models from Leap (1995) and Linde (1993) framed my research to understand if DPW use an alternative means of "claiming" workplace citizenship. I discovered DPW have ambiguous citizenship from multiple subject positions formed by mechanisms of power that determines their social practice. Transgressive DPW broke cultural norms to go forth and become professionals while they defined citizenship as a sense of belonging. However, the workplaces they entered define just who can and cannot obtain citizenship, forcing DPW to developed coping strategies of "passing," disidentifying, and back-talking to survive their work experiences. I found from DPW's career life stories how they used a counter-hegemonic discourse to struggle against knowledge and power within a workplace where citizenship is not culturally driven. This counter-discourse is very different from deaf women that lacked voice. I found that DPW used their agency by crossing borders via: tellin' their stories; showing how systems of power cause social inequalities for DPW; creating new signs that empower not oppress; admitting they are watched in public and private spheres; and standing up to audism, racism, sexism, and homophobia as they expose social inequalities. The language of DPW, American Sign Language, is a visual symbolic confrontation with those in power because stereotypically they lack the prescribed discourses required to enter academia and other professional arenas. Secrets which unfolded from DPW's career life stories revealed sites of oppression that left them invisible at gateways to success as access is denied DPW not only due to their deafness, but also due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. Deaf professional women are similar to other marginal groups; yet distinctive, because they can choose whether to reveal their difference as---Deaf Professional Women.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2007.


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