Emergent Signers at Gallaudet: Deaf Conversionary Processes as Embodied Language Ideologies
Emergent signers and their experiences have largely been consigned to the borders of academic study, with the exception of formulaic autobiographical narratives that buttress the center, which is composed of the rhetorically constructed notions of Deaf identity, culture, and native language competence. This study aims to widen the scope of analysis by synthesizing theories of the body and methodologies from cultural studies and linguistic anthropology to offer a more dynamic perspective on emergent signers. Skirting essentialist definitions, the emphasis of the study will be on the contexts, processes, and practices through which emergent signers "convert" their embodied dispositions. Through this lens, emergent signers become agentive subjects strategically navigating social and corporeal fields in attempt to ground their sensory experiences in their language use. The study relies on data collected through ethnographic observation of communicative practices at Gallaudet and interviews with current and former JumpStart students, who will be analyzed for the content of what they say as well as how they say it. The placement of interviewed emergent signers within social and corporeal fields at Gallaudet will be demonstrated through close linguistic attention to shifts in footing, deictic signs, and the use of depiction, transpositions, and projections.