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Deaf in the USSR: ‘defect’ and the New Soviet Person, 1917-1991

Shaw, C.L.; (2011) Deaf in the USSR: ‘defect’ and the New Soviet Person, 1917-1991. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis examines the history of the deaf in the Soviet Union from the February Revolution of 1917 to the fall of communism in 1991. Its primary goal is to assess the impact of disability on Soviet programmes of identity and the fashioning of a Soviet subjectivity and selfhood. From the birth of the Soviet state, the nascent deaf community sought to cast off the stigma, marginality and legal restrictions of their pre-revolutionary status and re-forge themselves as Soviet people. Deaf individuals adopted and transformed Soviet values, such as collectivism, humanism, labour and initiative, in an ongoing attempt to find their place within Soviet society. This utopian drive for equality and inclusion was tempered, however, by competing and sometimes contradictory understandings of the deaf: as objects of state beneficence and welfare, and as a separate community defined (both positively and negatively) by their ―defect‖. The thesis explores the activities of state bodies in the spheres of deaf education, labour and culture as well as the changing medical and educational theories of deafness, but its primary focus is the agency of deaf individuals, including how they constituted their own individual and collective selfhood. Its main source base is the archive of the All-Russian Society of the Deaf, the organisational body run by the deaf from 1926 to the present, alongside archival sources from other state institutions (the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR and the Trades Union) as well as printed sources (deaf journalism, literature, theatre and art). On this basis, the thesis argues that a unique deaf-Soviet identity developed in the Soviet Union, at times in opposition to state action, but firmly embedded within the ideological framework of the Soviet utopian project as a whole.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Deaf in the USSR: ‘defect’ and the New Soviet Person, 1917-1991
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1210777
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