Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Research is Raw.

In the four months since my last published blog post I've begun dozens of posts, some a few lines, others pages and pages of stories, others still my humous attempts at philosophizing. Reading back through these unpublished blog posts one truism glares at me, the research process is ugly, raw, and full of false starts. So for this post I figured I would take snapshots of a few to to highlight the honesty of my process.
From the draft, "DEAF ENOUGH?":

In 2006 the students of Gallaudet University launched a second campus-wide protest against the incoming administration.  This time students were enraged that a deaf woman who wasn't "Deaf enough" had been named as the university's 9th president.  The named president, Jane Fernandes* was raised through oralist methods, and learned to sign in her 20s. Fernandes was critiqued by students for her use of PSE (Pigeon Signed English) as opposed to the proper grammatical structure of ASL (American Sign Language). Students argued that while Fernandes was audiologically deaf she could not be trusted to hold the values of American Sign Language and Deaf culture.  After # days of protest the board redacted Fernandes's appointment and Robert Davila, a Deaf man, took office for a 3 year term.

* an earlier publication of this blog had incorrect information citing Alan Hurwitz as the appointed president that set off the protest.  However, Hurwitz took office as the 10th president with no protest.  As community folklore goes, sometimes narratives change in the retelling.  Yet another reminder to check your facts before publishing!  :-)

Mummerings of the "Deaf enough" spirit still haunt the student body at Gallaudet creating issues for a growing population of students who aren't "Deaf enough."  In this setting, issues of audiology, language and culture intersect to bring biology into a culture war.   Today, two such groups of students routinely critiqued as not "Deaf enough" are Hard-of-Hearing and Hearing students. These students are singled-out, either through self identification, or by others through a variety of auditory, linguistic, and cultural markers of "otherness."  Yet, for many Hard-of-Hearing and Hearing students the resistance they face is mitigated by the metaphor of two worlds (Deaf World and Hearing World) which is perverse in the socialization of these students through informal and formal training upon, or in some cases even before, their arrival at Gallaudet.  Some students even explicitly respond to their place in the caste structure of their new Deaf world, "Well, I understand.  I'm not Deaf!"


I've been accused of talking about my year of data collection as if it was something "as life changing as a marriage or child."  Well, for me it was.  At 28 years old I've made decisions in my life that as a consequence have left me single, childless, and happy.  At 29 those same decisions will lead me to a PhD with some of the most incredible stories to share from meeting, building friendships, and loving a group of 20 something's at Gallaudet. So for all of those who've I've had the honor to accompany along your journey, I've Had the Time of My Life, (Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes)

The end of this data collection has brought with it more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.  Overcome by the generosity and support of so many different people and organizations I called my dad recently for some fatherly advice.  So its only fitting that a Frank Sinatra song helps me keep his words in mind, "Don't be nervous about what happens after the PhD...There will be opportunities [that] come to you way beyond your wildest dreams. Just give it a chance."  The Best is Yet to Come, (Frank Sinatra)


Students who once had me as their first phone call have found a home at Gally.  My phone doesn't ring as often now as each have found their own way.  The field is leaving me.

"That's when I know it's over.  As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, its the end." --Junot Diaz, This is How you Lose Her

From the draft, "LYING IN LIMBO":

This morning I find myself lounging in a comfy bed in a hotel room in Kingsport, Tennessee halfway between Washington, DC and Nashville.  The symbolism of the morning is hard to overlook; I'm halfway between where I collected my data and where I will write my dissertation; lounging in a state of limbo, I'm comfortable where I am and am nervous about what is to come.  I've spent this time allowing myself to breathe and reading over field notes and old blog posts, reflecting on what I am leaving behind me.

I've attempted to edit this particular post more times than I would like to admit.  I've tried to find the story that connects the 2006 Deaf President Now protest, to lyrics of two classic pieces of American music, to my advisors question "How are you preparing to leave the field?," to the racing thoughts I managed while lying in my hotel room in Kingsport.  The truth of the matter though is that these streams on consciousness posts aren't connected thoughts.  Much like the stories I hope to tell in my dissertation, I haven't figured out what weaves them all together.  And that's okay.  Wait, I need to tell myself that again.  That's okay. So stay tuned, readers.  The benefits of sharing this vulnerability with you all is that when I do have the final intricately woven dissertation product you will all know that it wasn't in fact a stroke of genius, but rather developed through repeated refinement and crafting, something I feel far too few authors/academics expose.

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