Each lecture week is introduced by a visual representation of deaf communities as seen through the lens of De’VIA (Deaf Visual Images Art). They view deaf artists’ depictions of deaf oppression and liberation in visual/artistic form and discuss the representations of these two themes within the artwork as well as how the artist uses the characteristic forms of De’VIA (or not). Each piece of art is carefully selected to correspond with the theme under investigation and discussion for the week.
Subsequently, spend each week exploring different topics pertaining to the cultural, linguistic, and social formation of deaf communities. Students learn about the foundations of human rights of deaf people via policy (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as state-driven policy of various countries and the deaf communities within). Students are responsible for two research-based presentations in which they first examine the cultural, linguistic, and social experiences of selected deaf communities around the globe. They later examine other communities pre-selected to have what is on the surface a strong legal position for the rights of deaf people and the recognition of the respective sign languages within that region or country. However, they go beyond the legislation to see whether the policy is able to be implemented in practice and see how and why legal recognition of the language may not be enough to elevate deaf people to positions of parity with hearing citizens of their respective countries.
Furthermore, in the exploration of diverse countries with respect to policy, practice, art, culture, and education, students draw a comparative understanding of how, when, and why global deaf communities have successes and struggles with respect to their ability to access education and other human rights. For example, students watch a documentary film called Ishaare (which means gestures and signs in Hindi), and follow along exploring the lived experiences of several Indian deaf people including a deaf-blind Indian man. They use their foundational understanding of deaf communities more generally to see the overlaps and divergences in Indian deaf lives.
Ultimately, students explore the intersection of these cultural topics as they manifest in practice while in Italy. They are told the history (of the people, art, and architecture) of Italy (specifically Rome) through the lens and stories of deaf Italians. They view art and architecture led by an Italian deaf tour guide who demonstrates her knowledge through Italian Sign Language. One salient example of the way in which Italian deaf people perceive and represent their artistic and cultural values is through the sign for Caravaggio: his name sign is the combination of LUCE/CHIARA (light) and SCURO (dark), a beautiful and visually present example of his signature depictions of art through the chiaroscuro technique.