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Thesis Part II: Start where you are

Two weeks ago, I decided to re-evaluate the frame of my thesis. I have since found a co-collaborator who is part of the Deaf community and am thrilled to have his creative mind and spirit in the room. We decided to meet after thanksgiving break and I honestly, realized too late that I should have reserved an interpreter before inviting my collaborator to the meeting. However, this was a blessing in disguise because I found it a more enriching experience to attempt to articulate the main ideas of the project in ASL, the native language of my collaborator. I am not fluent. The reminder I give to myself: in order to build a bridge you have to risk being comfortable.

And once I started engaging with him in ASL, it was no longer uncomfortable. It was the norm. And I am so grateful for his desire to embrace this project and take this journey with me.

After discovering the flaws in my perspective and a moment of feeling like I was “taking the wrong road and asking myself questions like “should I just quit? should I just leave this to someone else?”as well as reading countless *HowlRound Articles,  I contacted my advisor. We drafted a visual diagram about “the problem we were trying to solve.” I expressed my thoughts about how I believe Hearing people view Deaf people. I realized that I had my own “assumptions about how Deaf people want to be treated” and I saw  how flawed that thinking was. I was trying to escape my perspective. I felt ashamed. I felt like a know-it-all and I wanted immediately to take it back. I mean who was I to decide how Deaf people want to be treated? But my advisor drew a line between stick figure me and a thought bubble leading to larger Hearing community and then on the opposing side of the paper, he drew a Deaf individual with a thought bubble to larger Deaf community. Looking at both sides of the paper, Deaf and Hearing I realized that the main question on this thesis is “what are the judgements we make based on our assumptions of each other?”

Then we took this and analyzed the plays I was incorporating into the discussion. They were mostly based on communication and miscommunication. So I thought about my background and the assumptions I made based on the fact that I was not raised in the Deaf Community. So the question we realized we were working was “what are the assumptions we make based on how we were raised” and then it evolved after more discussion into “what are the assumptions based on how we were taught to communicate?”

So this is our jumping off point. This is the common ground. A question to discuss. A question that had I not questioned my own perspective would have never existed but without my perspective would have never been made.

So: Start where you are.


Read more HowlRound:

Barriers, Needs and Next Steps: A convening on the State of Deaf Theatre-making– Martha Steketee

Day By Day: Finding the Voices of Deaf Leadership on Stage– Luane Davis Haggerty

Or check out my older post “It Takes a Village” about the first part of this discussion.


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