Linguistics Department

UT Signed Language Lab presents Éverton Luís Pereira - "Ways to be Deaf and ways to envision sign language: Local and external language ideologies in a rural village in the Northeast of Brazil."

Wed, February 22, 2012 | SZB 422

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Éverton Luís Pereira, MA in Social Anthropology. Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Santa Catarina, Brazil. PhD student in Social Anthropology at Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). Visiting doctoral student at UT.

ASL-English interpreters and CART services have been requested.


For more than 20 years, researchers have been studying villages around the world where the incidence of deafness is very high. Studies have generally focused on the structure of the local sign language, though some writings have also discussed socialization processes between deaf and hearing people within the villages. Some examples are the following: Ban Khor Sign Language, a small village in Thailand (Nonaka 2007, 2009, 2011), Martha's Vineyard (Groce (1985), Jamaica (Dolman 1986),  Providence Island in Colombia (Washabaugh 1979),  Deaf life on isolated Japanese island (Torigoe 1995), the Bedouin Community in the Negev Desert of Israel (Kisch 2004), the sign language used in the small tribe (Urubu-Kaapor) in Brazil (Brito 1984), Yucatec Maya Village in Mexico (Johnson 1991), and Desa Kolok, a sign language used in a small village in Bali, Indonesia (Marsaja 2008). Those studies have generally focused on either the linguistic differences between the village sign language and the national sign language or aspects of socialization and deafness inside those villages.

Last year (2011), the American Anthropology Association (AAA), at its annual meeting, hosted a panel discussion dedicated to “Indigenous and Village Sign Language”. That panel, according to the invitation, had as its focus a discussion around the notable influence from national sign languages on village sign languages and the consequence of this process--not only from a linguistic perspective, but also from a point of view of group socialization.

In this presentation I will further the discussion in the field by describing a Brazilian village and its patterns of interaction between deaf and hearing villagers. I will provide details of some aspects of my fieldwork at Várzea Queimada, a rural village in the Northeast of Brazil in which 3.5% of the population is deaf (32 individuals). The catholic mission to teach Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS) began there in 2008.  Before that, the deaf there were not in touch with the national sign language; they only signed using the village sign language.

My dissertation describes the social identity of the deaf and sign language from different perspectives. First, I describe, from the local perspective, how the following four social institutions have contributed to the social identity of the deaf and the sign language in this village:   (1) family/community; (2) religion/church/ritual; (3)land/work/money; and (4) state services.  Second, I describe how certain external forces—catholic ideology, public policies, and biomedicine—have influenced the local social identity.  The social institutions create multiple ideologies surrounding what it means to be deaf and to use sign language.  At the local level, ideologies that subserve ideologies of equality abound, but there is also evidence of unequal relations between hearing and deaf people and sign language use.  With regard to external forces, there is profound influence from others' discourses on the local ideologies of what it means to be deaf and use sign language.

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