The Social Construction of Reality in a Total Institution: an Ethnography of a State Residential School for the Deaf.
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Above all deafness constitutes a language and communication problem. A child born deaf experiences a form of double deprivation: symbolic deprivation and social interactional deprivation. Both the development of self and the construction of a world (human culture) are impeded by the lack of language. This first ethnography of a state residential school for the deaf (SSD) follows Glaser and Strauss (1967) by developing a theory from "data" systematically obtained on the field. The formulations of Goffman, Berger and Luckmann, Mead and Bernstein guided this inquiry and provided it a sense of reference. The central problem investigated in question form is: What are the effects of restricted language and restricted environment on the self and the world view of deaf children in a residential school? Information was gathered from August through mid-December, 1981 by means of participant observation, interviews, and secondary sources. A total of twenty-three teachers from every school (lower, middle, high, vocational and special studies) were interviewed. Ninety-eight per cent of all interviews were tape recorded (my voice recorded responses of deaf members) and modal length of interviews was one-and-one-half hours. I lived in the school infirmary and made daily observations in classrooms (for one week durations). Observations were also made on playgrounds, cafeterias, bus trips, etc. The findings of this study are subsumed under three headings: language acquisition, total institution, and self. A process of "total enculturation" (instead of "disculturation") is the socialization norm at SSD. One important finding was that SSD does not give highest priority to English and, not surprisingly, that students acquire a very poor command of English. ASL is viewed as a restricted code of communication which permits a restricted self and world view. It was found that some students were unable to talk about themselves. Others did so in terms of school oriented activities. And yet egoism was very common at all ages. A rich underlife was found to exist. Using some ingenious and creative ploys students preserve self even in the face of round-the-clock surveillance.
Evans, Abbie Donald, "The Social Construction of Reality in a Total Institution: an Ethnography of a State Residential School for the Deaf." (1982). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 3803.