The socio-cultural history of deafness began in France in the mid-18th century. Charles-Michel L’Épée - a then unknown priest to whom in 1791 the Constituent Assembly granted the title of benefactor of humanity - accidentally met two deaf sisters. Surprisingly for the time, they were able to communicate through visio-gestural language. This was a far cry from the life usually led by the deaf. In fact, being deaf has always meant being considered “naturally” unfit for any linguistic and cognitive activity. Yet L'Épée understood that to deconstruct this prejudice, having access to instruction by sight could be the answer. As his unexpected meeting had shown him, the latter had "at hand" a language which they spontaneously mastered and which reversed any order of discourse concerning them. This is exactly what L’Épée achieved when he decided to “mould” the natural language of the deaf into a “methodical” system of signs and, ultimately, sign language. From then on we can see a change in attitude which has not been matched since. By gaining the right to their own words, the deaf can finally live as citizens. However, in the 19th century, the cultural history of deafness slowed down dramatically. There even came a time when it came to a complete halt. Indeed, following the famous Milan Congress of 1880, the use of sign language was banned from all schools for the deaf. In Italy as elsewhere, it took more than a century before sign language emerged from clandestinity into which this event had forced it. At the same time, it must be said that in a way we have never left the audism of which the Milan Congress was and still is the most explicit and defined expression. Traces of it remain at all levels of social and cultural life, notably in education and information policies. The period of the Covid-19 pandemic did not make any difference.

La surdité face à la pandémie. Un silence qui nous interroge tous

Donata Chirico'
2021

Abstract

The socio-cultural history of deafness began in France in the mid-18th century. Charles-Michel L’Épée - a then unknown priest to whom in 1791 the Constituent Assembly granted the title of benefactor of humanity - accidentally met two deaf sisters. Surprisingly for the time, they were able to communicate through visio-gestural language. This was a far cry from the life usually led by the deaf. In fact, being deaf has always meant being considered “naturally” unfit for any linguistic and cognitive activity. Yet L'Épée understood that to deconstruct this prejudice, having access to instruction by sight could be the answer. As his unexpected meeting had shown him, the latter had "at hand" a language which they spontaneously mastered and which reversed any order of discourse concerning them. This is exactly what L’Épée achieved when he decided to “mould” the natural language of the deaf into a “methodical” system of signs and, ultimately, sign language. From then on we can see a change in attitude which has not been matched since. By gaining the right to their own words, the deaf can finally live as citizens. However, in the 19th century, the cultural history of deafness slowed down dramatically. There even came a time when it came to a complete halt. Indeed, following the famous Milan Congress of 1880, the use of sign language was banned from all schools for the deaf. In Italy as elsewhere, it took more than a century before sign language emerged from clandestinity into which this event had forced it. At the same time, it must be said that in a way we have never left the audism of which the Milan Congress was and still is the most explicit and defined expression. Traces of it remain at all levels of social and cultural life, notably in education and information policies. The period of the Covid-19 pandemic did not make any difference.
L’histoire socio-culturelle de la surdité naît en France au milieu du XVIIIe siècle. Charles-Michel L’Épée – un prêtre inconnu auquel l’Assemblée Constituante accordera en 1791 le titre de bienfaiteur de l’humanité – fait la connaissance fortuite de deux soeurs sourdes. Étonnamment pour l’époque, elles communiquent par un langage visio-gestuel, habituellement très peu pratiqué par les sourds. Depuis toujours, être sourd signifiait être considéré « naturellement » inapte à toute activité linguistique et cognitive. Pourtant, L’Épée comprend que pour déconstruire ce préjugé il suffirait que les sourds accèdent à l’instruction par la vue. Sa rencontre inattendue lui avait démontré que ces derniers avaient « à portée de main » une langue qu’ils maîtrisaient spontanément et qui renversait ainsi tout ordre de discours les concernant. C’est exactement ce que L’Épée réalisa lorsqu’il décida de « mouler » le langage naturel des sourds pour qu’il devienne un système « méthodique » de signes et finalement une langue des signes. Dès lors, on assiste à un échange de pas qui depuis n’aura pas d’égale. Gagné le droit à leur propre parole, les sourds peuvent finalement se vivre comme citoyens. Toutefois, au XIXe siècle, l’histoire culturelle de la surdité a terriblement ralenti au point d’être complètement arrêtée un moment. Suite au célèbre Congrès de Milan du 1880, l’emploi de la langue des signes fut interdite dans les écoles pour sourds. En Italie comme ailleurs, il faudra plus d’un siècle avant que la langue des signes sorte de la clandestinité à laquelle cet événement l’avait contrainte. Par ailleurs, on est jamais vraiment sorti de l’« audisme » dont le Congrès de Milan fut et est l’expression la plus explicite et définie. Des traces subsistent à tous les niveaux de la vie sociale et culturelle, notamment des politiques relatives à l’instruction et à l’information. Celle de la période de la pandémie de Covid-19 n’a pas fait de différence.
accessibility, audism, citizenship, deafhood, deafness, ergonomics, identity, sign language, power, stigma
accessibilité, audisme, citoyenneté, deafhood, ergonomie, identité, langue des signes, pouvoir, stigmate, surdité
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11770/325351
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