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Access to Hearing Discourse by Passing as Hearing

Gee notes that where true or full acquisition of a Discourse may not always be possible, for whatever reasons, a "mushfake Discourse" is often possible. He goes on to explain that by "mushfake Discourse" he means "partial acquisition coupled with meta-knowledge and strategies to 'make do'" (180). Brueggemann, one of the Hard-of-Hearing contributors for the DALN and also one of the interviewers for this set, talks about her own kind of mushfaking by writing and by being silent in the classroom.

Brueggemann compares writing to speaking and refers to her scholarship in Deaf literacy studies as well as her personal experience when she says, "I've written about this, the line that writing is my pass, writing is my passage way, through writing I pass" (part 1, 16:30). Writing offers a way for Brueggemann and other Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people who are proficient in written English to come off as part of the dominant [Hearing] Discourse. Writing, in some ways, affords Brueggemann Discourse options that her voice may not. She explains:

I don't have a greatly deaf voice, but I have a voice that's "deaf enough" that when people know or have known other deaf people they get it right away... And I grew up in school never speaking, which just, you know, is fascinating to some people who know me because I do love to talk. But all throughout graduate school I never talked at all. You know I never talked in my undergraduate years in the classroom. Never said a word because I was afraid to give up my voice because as soon as I give up my voice, somebody's going to notice something is different [...].
(part 1, 15:51)

Brueggemann frames her silence as a form of mushfaking, of getting the necessary combination of social practices right enough for a given situation in order to be recognized, to "pass," as part of the Hearing Discourse. Her choices, and those of other deaf people in similar situations, are never neutral. In fact, Brueggemann acknowledges that there is always cost involved in choosing one Discourse over another:

[...U]nless there is a hearing aid for you to notice, you won't know necessarily that someone is deaf or hard of hearing unless their voice gives it up. So there's a way that they can pass. So the technology, ironically, can help us pass in culture but it also gives up your passing, you know; it makes you sort of visibly disabled and most deaf people that I've met have this same sense of this that it's, you know, a kind of dance about what you want to give up at any given moment [...].
(part 1, 17:16)

This incident of Brueggemann's makes public the dynamic but often hidden relationship between discourse and access. It asks us to consider, in a given situation, what discourses are at play and which ones are getting privileged? What discourses are or are not recognized at all? Additionally, Brueggemann asks listeners/learners to consider, in a given situation, what things we can control in order to pass? What factors are outside our control? When passing is not a possibility, what are the costs of not passing? What market manufactures and controls these costs, for whose benefit?

Access and Deaf Culture Access and Technology Access and Discourse
Jane Fernandes Jane Fernandes Brenda Brueggemann
Christopher Driscoll Warren Francis Anonymous

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