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Deaf identities in a multicultural setting: The Ugandan context

Anthony B. Mugeere, Peter Atekyereza, Edward K. Kirumira, Staffan Hojer

African Journal of Disability; Vol 4, No 1 (2015), 9 pages. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v4i1.69

Submitted: 16 May 2013
Published:  26 May 2015


Often located far apart from each other, deaf and hearing impaired persons face a multiplicity of challenges that evolve around isolation, neglect and the deprivation of essential social services that affect their welfare and survival. Although it is evident that the number of persons born with or acquire hearing impairments in later stages of their lives is increasing in many developing countries, there is limited research on this population. The main objective of this article is to explore the identities and experiences of living as a person who is deaf in Uganda. Using data from semi-structured interviews with 42 deaf persons (aged 19–41) and three focus group discussions, the study findings show that beneath the more pragmatic identities documented in the United States and European discourses there is a matrix of ambiguous, often competing and manifold forms in Uganda that are not necessarily based on the deaf and deaf constructions. The results further show that the country’s cultural, religious and ethnic diversity is more of a restraint than an enabler to the aspirations of the deaf community. The study concludes that researchers and policy makers need to be cognisant of the unique issues underlying deaf epistemologies whilst implementing policy and programme initiatives that directly affect them. The upper case ‘D’ in the term deaf is a convention that has been used since the early 1970s to connote a ‘socially constructed visual culture’ or a linguistic, social and cultural minority group who use sign language as primary means of communication and identify with the deaf community, whereas the lower case ‘d’ in deaf refers to ‘the audio logical condition of hearing impairment’. However, in this article the lower case has been used consistently.

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Author affiliations

Anthony B. Mugeere, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Makerere University, Uganda
Peter Atekyereza, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Makerere University, Uganda
Edward K. Kirumira, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Makerere University, Uganda
Staffan Hojer, Department of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden



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