In Our Own Hands: Essays in Deaf History 1780-1970 (Book Review)

I recently visited the National Association of the Deaf’s main office in Silver Spring, Maryland to do some archival research. On the wall in the waiting room is a mural which includes an image of a Deaf man holding a sign that proclaims “We can drive ourselves.” The very real issue of deaf people’s historical fight to gain access to driver’s licensing is an apt metaphor for the broad categories of agency and citizenship for deaf people who have wanted to steer their own lives.

This issue of deaf agency in a hearing world is the central theme of In Our Own Hands: Essays in Deaf History 1780-1970, edited by Brian H. Greenwald and Joseph J. Murray. In this book of deeply researched essays, each chapter illustrates ways in which deaf people made sustained efforts to manage their own political, social, or religious lives—and how these efforts were repeatedly contested, ignored, or absorbed by the larger social structures of hearing people.

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