Original Research

Views from the borderline: Extracts from my life as a coloured child of Deaf adults, growing up in apartheid South Africa

Jane Harrison, Brian Watermeyer
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a473 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.473 | © 2019 Jane Harrison, Brian Watermeyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2017 | Published: 24 April 2019

About the author(s)

Jane Harrison, Disability Studies Division, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Brian Watermeyer, Disability Studies Division, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Over 90% of Deaf parents have hearing children, but there are very few, if any, studies that have explored the life worlds of hearing children of Deaf adults (CODAs) in South Africa. This article is an account of part of the life experiences of a female hearing child who was born and raised by her Deaf parents in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.

Objectives: This study used auto-ethnography to explore the socialisation of a female coloured CODA during the height of South Africa’s apartheid era, in order to shed light on intersectional influences on identity and selfhood. The study was intended to contribute to the limited knowledge available on the life circumstances of CODAs in Global South contexts.

Methods: Evocative auto-ethnography under a qualitative research paradigm was used to explore the life world of a now adult female hearing child of Deaf parents. Her thoughts, observations, reflections and involvements are articulated in a first person written narrative that is presented in this article. A thematic analysis approach was used to analyse data, and the themes that emerged are: (1) CODAs as language brokers, (2) being bilingual and trilingual, (3) being bicultural, (4) role reversal and parentification and (5) issues of identity. A discussion of these themes is interwoven with the literature, in an effort to provide a rich and robust analysis that contributes to the body of knowledge.

Results: Multiple identity markers that include disability, gender, race, age, nationality, culture and language intersect to frame the life world of a hearing child of Deaf parents who grew up in the apartheid era in South Africa. The result is both positive and negative life experiences, arising from being located simultaneously in both a hearing and Deaf world.

Conclusion: This study suggests that, in part, the life world of a hearing child of Deaf parents is multi-layered, multidimensional and complex; hence, it cannot be presented with a single description. Recommendations that inform policy and practice are outlined in the concluding section of the article.


Keywords

Deaf parents; hearing child; CODA; identity; apartheid; South Africa

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