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Introduction to American Deaf Culture

Introduction to American Deaf Culture by Thomas K. Holcomb

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Introduction to American Deaf Culture is the only comprehensive college-level textbook that provides a broad, yet in-depth exploration of Deaf people, seen through a cultural perspective. Because they are often misunderstood by the general public, this book offers a valuable resource illustrating the ways Deaf people effectively manage their lives in a world full of people who can hear.  Included in the textbook are chapters on the definition of culture, how the concept of culture can be applied to the Deaf experience, as well as the evolution of Deaf culture over the years.

Unique to Introduction to American Deaf Culture is the inclusion of the author’s personal experiences as a Deaf person. Holcomb, who hails from a multi-generational Deaf family, interweaves his personal accounts of living bi-culturally among Deaf and hearing people  throughout the book to support and illuminate the academic discussion of chapter topics.  These topics include an analysis of various segments of the Deaf community, a close look at the tension between the Deaf and disabled communities, an examination of cultural norms in the Deaf community, descriptions and analysis of Deaf Art and Deaf literature (both in written English and ASL forms), a comparison of  solutions offered by the medical community and the Deaf community for effective living as deaf individuals, and an investigation into the universality of the deaf experience including the enculturation process, through which many Deaf people achieve a healthy identity.

Published by Oxford University Press


Some comments from a recent review in PsycCritiques, a publication of the American Psychological Association (and only available in full to APA members):

“Holcomb offers an engaging and persuasive view of the experience of the Deaf and the distinctive solutions that community has derived”

“Holcomb’s discussion of the “cultural players” feature, a substitute for the family ties that characterize many other subcultures, is convincing in its presentation of loyalty to the community. One of the entertaining aspects of the text is Holcomb’s description of the customs of Deaf culture that convey a clear sense of insider status, leavened with an ability to refrain from taking oneself too seriously. An experience that Deaf culture shares with many other subcultures is the increased likelihood of facing prejudice and discrimination.”

“Holcomb’s work offers a readable introduction to a community that has generally been invisible to mainstream American culture, and the text constitutes a useful addition to the literature on deafness.”


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