Construction of deaf narrative identity in Creative South African Sign Language (SASL)

Ruth Zilla Morgan, Michiko Kaneko


In this paper we observe how deaf narrative identity (identities) emerge in creative SASL texts. We first identify how difficulties in establishing deaf cultural identities in the hearing-dominant world are represented in the ‘Man Against Monster’ plot (Booker 2004) commonly employed in sign language narrative. Then we use de Certeau (1984)’s notion of ‘place versus space’ and Heap (2003)’s notion of Sign-deaf space (plus our own term of mediated Sign-speak space) to explore how deaf artists transform the Monster (i.e. oppressing hearing place) into Deafhood and deaf space, which leads to the celebration of sign language and deaf culture. We also demonstrate how the recent notion of sensescape, coined by Rosen (2018), can be used to reinterpret our own approach to deaf narrative identity. The Monster in deaf stories can be understood not only in terms of the audist ideology but also in terms of different sensory orientations between deaf and hearing characters.

Creative texts provide a wealth of opportunities to explore how narrative identities are constructed. In fictional stories, deaf narrators step back from being themselves and extract the essence of their shared experience and sublimate it into a search for Deafhood which appeals to the deaf community. Various notions developed within the field of deaf studies, such as Deafhood, deaf space and deaf geographies, are useful in (re-)interpreting existing texts and shedding a new light on them.


SASL, Sign language, Creative Signing, Poetry, deaf

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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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