Decolonising Deaf History. Harlan Lane, Postcolonialism, and Critical Colonial History

  • I first came across Harlan Lane’s work towards the end of my PhD, which I was undertaking at University College London, UK. My dissertation was on the construction of ›difference‹ in the British Empire, particularly the differences ascribed to race and gender. Using nineteenth-century medical missionaries as a way in, I had started to think about differences evoked by health, disability, and the body. In particular, I noted the way in which missionaries used the language of disability as a discourse of racialisation. The African and Indian colonial subjects they encountered were described throughout missionary literature as ›deaf to the Word‹, ›blind to the light‹ and ›too lame‹ to walk alone. I have two d/Deaf cousins, one of whom is the sign language sociolinguist Nick Palfreyman, and around about this time Nick had started to familiarise me with some of the issues surrounding Deaf politics. Becoming interested and wanting to know more, I began to learn British Sign Language (BSL) and contemplate the connections between the historical work I was doing and contemporary struggles of Deaf politics and disability politics (I was particularly interested in DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts – given the contemporary climate of austerity in the UK). As I did so I became acquainted with the work of Harlan Lane. Here, although acutely aware of my own positionality as a white, British, hearing woman, I have taken up the challenge set by the editors of this special issue to re-read his work twelve years on from my initial encounter with it, using the insights into postcolonial study I have gained through my historical work.

Download full text files

Export metadata

Additional Services

Share in Twitter Search Google Scholar
Author:Esme CleallORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Zeithistorische Forschungen – Studies in Contemporary History
Publisher:ZZF – Centre for Contemporary History: Zeithistorische Forschungen
Place of publication:Potsdam
Document Type:Journal Article
Date of Publication (online):2022/12/20
Date of first Publication:2022/12/20
Release Date:2022/12/20
First Page:380
Last Page:387
ZZF Chronological-Classification:1945-
ZZF Topic-Classification:Körper
Postcolonial Studies
Transnationale Geschichte
Geistes- und Ideengeschichte
Intellectual History
Global History
ZZF Regional-Classification:regional übergreifend
Web-Publications:Zeithistorische Forschungen
Studies in Contemporary History: Articles:2 / 2022 Disability History
Publication type:Rezension
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)