[xmca] performance

From: ccampion@weber.ucsd.edu
Date: Wed Mar 07 2007 - 15:14:15 PST

Hello xMCAers,

I too am a graduate student in Mike’s class. I started this off as a
book review of "Inside Deaf Culture" and ended up with more questions and
confusion than answers and clarifications. I'd be intersted in hearing
your thoughts on performance, artifacts, identity, culture, language and
all that fun stuff which I address broadly in the
following essay.

We recently read Carol Padden and Tom Humphries book “Inside Deaf
Culture.” Here, they note the importance of performance in developing
American Sign Language (ASL) as a viable language, to both deaf and
hearing people, and in furthering Deaf culture. They write, “The
convention of using the capitalized *D*eaf to emphasize the *cultural*
drew even more attention to the description of Deaf cultural practices,
but *whose* practices and *which* practices counted? In this moment of
transition, the arts…played a role by modeling for the public a new mixing
of languages and practices” (p. 131). As I thought about this, I began to
think of performance in terms of artifacts, as defined by Mike Cole in
“Cultural Psychology” : “an artifact is an aspect of the
material world that has been modified over the history of its
incorporation into goal-directed human action” (p. 117). In this
regard, it is helpful to analyze Deaf performance on Wartofsky’s three
level framework of artifacts: the words and signs embody primary
artifacts; the rules behind the signs and conventions of performance as
secondary artifacts; and Deaf performance as a whole as a tertiary
artifact in that it is a tool for changing the current praxis and way of
viewing the “actual” world (hence mediates the recognition of Deaf as a
culture and ASL as a language). Deaf people began viewing ASL differently
once it was established and carried out in performance. It was no longer a
mere translation of English, but was its own language with signs and
meanings not found in the English language. Thus, the history of the
language (in this case ASL) is transmitted to the performance and
simultaneously made anew through the performance(Padden & Humphries, p.
143). Since the arts provided a new avenue for mixing language and
practices within the Deaf community, performance can be viewed as a
mediating action. This, in essence, is applicable to our daily encounters
whether Deaf or Hearing. I believe we are constantly performing;
continuously taking the Other into consideration and acting accordingly.
This, in turn, lends itself to identity formation and recognizing oneself
as part of a particular culture by knowing who one is through whom one is

In sum, via performance, ASL distanced itself from the English language
and established itself as its own language, and, in turn, the Deaf
community established a stronger cultural identity.

So, how does this lend itself to our conception of culture and
language? Is this helpful when thinking of intersubjectivity? And, what
does performance as a mediating action really mean?

I find the relationship between performance, artifacts, and identity
formation interesting as a way to think about culture and language. As you
can probably tell, I am still trying to make sense of all this. Hopefully
someone out there can help me weld these thoughts into a coherent whole.

Thanks for your time,
Camille Campion

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