Michele Friedner: The Value(s) of Bangalore’s Deaf Community
Michele Friedner, Medical Anthropologist and author of Valuing Deaf Worlds in Urban India. She’s faculty at the StonyBrook School of Health Technology and Management and an expert in investigating Deaf Communities in India. This is one of the rare few ethnographic accounts from Deaf India. Additionally, Michele herself is Deaf and brings unique insight to us.
Valuing Deaf Worlds in Urban India looks at the social, political and economic value of Bangalore’s Deaf Community. What is striking about her work is her deconstruction of our assumptions that India’s Deaf Community is the most stigmatized and marginalized. While there are definite struggles and human rights issues to be addressed, especially with respect to language rights, she points out that India’s Hearing community makes an effort to community – through gestures and other means – with their Deaf community members. She gives wonderful examples of witnessing the attempt to make meaning happen for the sake of communicating, not always because of a legal obligation to do so.
Additionally, she does address the good and bad of Bangalore’s Deaf Community members employment in private multinational companies (the outsourced). While the outside view may think this is a healthy work environment, she points out the opportunities for exploitation of Deaf employees and furthermore, the political favor these companies gain by hiring Deaf workers.
We met on Skype and chatted about all of this (and veered off into craving homecooked Gujarati food, but that’s not on the tape). This interview was featured on my new show, Intersections Radio.
Check out the podcast!
Air date: 9/4/2015
Extended webspecial: Michele talks about ignorance of Sign Language as necessity – and on the flipside – the Deaf Community functioning as foot soldiers in the disability rights movement.