Deaf Subjects

Between Identities and Places

224 pages

30 illustrations

May, 2009

ISBN: 9780814799673



Also available in


American Studies

Part of the Cultural Front series


Brenda Jo Brueggemann is Professor of English and Disability Studies at The Ohio State University where she coordinates the Disability Studies program and serves as a Faculty Leader for the American Sign Language Program. She has authored, edited, or co-edited seven books.

All books by Brenda Jo Brueggemann

In this probing exploration of what it means to be deaf, Brenda Brueggemann goes beyond any simple notion of identity politics to explore the very nature of identity itself. Looking at a variety of cultural texts, she brings her fascination with borders and between-places to expose and enrich our understanding of how deafness embodies itself in the world, in the visual, and in language.

Taking on the creation of the modern deaf subject, Brueggemann ranges from the intersections of gender and deafness in the work of photographers Mary and Frances Allen at the turn of the last century, to the state of the field of Deaf Studies at the beginning of our new century. She explores the power and potential of American Sign Language—wedged, as she sees it, between letter-bound language and visual ways of learning—and argues for a rhetorical approach and digital future for ASL literature.

The narration of deaf lives through writing becomes a pivot around which to imagine how digital media and documentary can be used to convey deaf life stories. Finally, she expands our notion of diversity within the deaf identity itself, takes on the complex relationship between deaf and hearing people, and offers compelling illustrations of the intertwined, and sometimes knotted, nature of individual and collective identities within Deaf culture.


  • "At times serious, funny, irreverent, and always thoughtful, this is the most challenging book yet written about deafness—challenging in making us think better and in breaking new ground. Clearly a must-read."

    —Lennard Davis, author of Obsession: A History

  • "Both rhetoric and disability studies are enhanced by Brueggemann’s juxtapositions in Deaf Subjects by, for instance, using rhetorical theory to illuminate the performative dimensions of American Sign Language and the Nazi T-4 project. Fascinating and essential reading for students and scholars in both fields."

    —Anne Ruggles Gere, University of Michigan