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Emancipation Processes in the Ugandan Deaf Community

This project was supported by a British Academy Small Research Grant, including a Sir Ernest Cassel Trust Fund Travel Grant, awarded to Dr. Goedele A.M. De Clerck, an honorary visiting scholar at the Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) group at the University of Manchester, UK (School of Nursery, Midwifery, and Social Work), where the study is under supervision of Prof. Alys Young. The research team further consists of Dr. Sam Lutalo-Kiingi (co-researcher) and Ms. Bonnie Busingye (research assistant) from the Deaf Studies Unit of the Faculty of Special Needs and Rehabilitation at Kyambogo University in Uganda. Importantly, the project relied on valued partnerships with several NGOs: the Ugandan National Association of the Deaf (UNAD); the United Deaf Women’s Organization (UDEWO); and Immanuel Church of the Deaf (ICD), especially the Mbale and Ntinda (in Kampala) branches.

In 1995 Uganda became the first country in the world to constitutionally recognize its sign language, and it is known in sub-Saharan Africa as a politically pioneering nation for the development of deaf communities. However, the personal and collective lives of Ugandan deaf people have remained largely unrecorded. This case study addresses this gap through documenting emancipation processes in the Ugandan deaf community and seeking further insight into the intergenerational transmission of its cultural practices and knowledge. To do so, the research has explored the social position of Ugandan deaf community members in two places, the capital Kampala and the district Mbale in Eastern Uganda, through ethnographic interviews, document study, community profiles and video portraits.

The creation of a profile of this community resulted in community-derived multimedia storytelling and a comprehensive timeline (please note that further details about these will be available on 29 September 2015).