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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Social Lives of Deaf Youth in Iquitos, Peru

  • Author(s): Goico, Sara Alida
  • Advisor(s): Haviland, John B
  • et al.

In this dissertation, I examine the social and communicative lives of deaf youth in Iquitos, Peru using a language socialization approach that combines ethnographic research with interactional analysis. I illustrate this approach using the data of three deaf boys, Luis, José, and Jeremy, whom I met while observing their regular education mainstream classroom in 2014. All three boys were similar in that they had no previous access to an established language. Their deafness precluded access to spoken Spanish, they had not received hearing assistive technology, and had not been exposed to Peruvian Sign Language.

I began my research in Iquitos under the assumption that without access to an established language that the deaf youth I would meet would be cut-off from the surrounding social world. Yet, through my ethnographic fieldwork, I found that these boys had remarkably rich social and communicative lives. They were integral members of their households, had friends whom they played with and had crushes on, were frequent customers at the family run shops in their neighborhoods, and attended school where they were busy doing the work of being students. The interactional analyses illustrate how the boys use their manual communication systems to navigate the distinct affordances provided by their home and school environments.

In this dissertation, I demonstrate how the language socialization paradigm provides an important advance to studying the communication of deaf individuals without access to an established language. The language socialization approach sheds light on how these sign systems are co-created in interaction with a community of individuals and rely on a variety of communicative resources, including manual signs, vocalizations, eye gaze, body orientation, and the manipulation of objects. Additionally, this dissertation addresses the future possibilities for deaf youth growing up in Iquitos. I advocate for providing deaf youth with access to Peruvian Sign Language, as well as grassroots community efforts to address the numerous structural barriers that deaf individuals face as they move into adulthood in Iquitos.

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