60. Name: Kinda Al Fityani Title: Deaf People, Modernity, and a Contentious Effort to Unify Arab Sign Languages (Al Jazeera’s Contribution) Institution: University of California Country: United States Date: 2010 Language: English Abstract: This study examines a project to unify sign languages across the Arab world. Proponents of the project, mainly pan-Arab governmental bodies with the support of Al Jazeera satellite channel, framed the project as a human rights effort to advance the welfare of deaf people. They urged its institutionalization in schools for deaf children and promoted it as the official language of deaf Arab people. This dissertation reviews arguments held by those supporting and opposing the project. Both sides claim a vision of modernity in which progress is perceived as a continuation of a past that is consistent with their present practices and beliefs. For proponents supporting the unification project, progress is tied to pan-Arab nationalism and unifying Arabic language. Those opposing the project define progress as gaining more autonomy through official recognition of their natural sign languages and by transforming disparaging concepts of deafness. This project may fail in achieving its main goal of wide acceptance by deaf Arab people throughout. Its potential demise can be attributed to its architects’ lack of understanding of the deep complexity of human languages, including sign languages.
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