Larry Stewart’s interpretation of Deaf Culture
(editor’s note: Dr. Larry Stewart, a deaf man, was a controversial
psychologist with strong views on many issues regarding the deaf and of deafness. He did not agree that we have a Deaf Culture. He passed away in 1992. About two months before his death, DeafDigest editor wrote Larry a letter, asking him to define Deaf Culture).
Question asked by DeafDigest editor:
Since you recently wrote in a recent article – that the deaf people have preferred to congregate with each other. If this type of congregation (home, life, social, civic, recreational, religion) is not Deaf Culture, then what would you call it? Is it Deaf Civilization? Is it Deaf Community life?
Handwritten response by Dr Stewart:
Check what I wrote again. I did not say “all deaf people.”
I do not use “culture” to refer to social activities, generally. I reserve “culture” for major influences – i.e., what makes America different from, for example, Japan (family values, religion, the meaning of life, work, etc). If we are to use culture to refer to social experiences generally, then America has thousands & thousands of “cultures”. (Hence, it means nothing). In response to your specific question at the end, I use the term “the deaf community” to refer to deaf people who choose to associate with one another for social purposes. This term does not and never has built the kind of walls between people, or splintered us off from hearing people, the way “culture” has.