Black Deaf or Deaf Black? : an investigation of identity in the British Black Deaf community
This thesis explores some of the life experiences of a group of Black1 Deaf2 individuals and the influences affecting their identity development. It also investigates the different attitudes to deafness within the Black hearing community. A quantitative survey was conducted with 57 respondents to explore attitudes to deafness amongst Black hearing people. The survey revealed that Black people perceived deafness as mild to moderate disability, a finding also echoed in the informants own accounts of interacting within the Black hearing community. The main study with the informants was conducted using qualitative methods. This explored the informants' childhood family experiences, education, employment, and interactions with the Black hearing and Deaf communities. The qualitative study questioned whether Black Deaf people should be referred to as Black Deaf or Deaf Black. It revealed that Black Deaf people assumed a diverse range of identities. For example, for some informants' the terms Black Deaf or Deaf Black had different meanings, but for others these terms were interchangeable. A group of informants resisted any attempts to categorize their identities. They constructed an identity, which did not prioritize race or deafness but was negotiated in different contexts. Many of the informants based their identity choices upon their personal experiences and attitudes towards the Deaf and the Black communities. Their experiences with these groups also influenced which community they felt more closely attached too. From exploring the personal identities of Black Deaf people a picture of their collective identity began to emerge. Three different groups of Black Deaf people were identified. These were labelled the Aspirers, Drifters and the Inbetweeners. These labels were chosen to encapsulate their characteristics and attitudes towards the development of the Black Deaf community. The study contested the possibility of a unified Black Deaf identity. It highlighted that the informants' identity formation was a continual process and open to constant negotiation. It indicated that other influences aside from race and deafness affected the informants' identity development, which must be considered in any further analysis of identity construction amongst Black Deaf people.