Signs of Deficiency: Deafness, Disability, and Emerging Sign Languages in Puerto Rico


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships


Mexican American and Latina/o Studies


This project looks at how particular registers of disability manifest through the concept of deficiency across discourses that highlight differences in Sign Languages between d/Deaf communities in Puerto Rico. Particularly focusing on deaf/disabled dichotomizations, this project examines conditions that motivate both d/Deaf and hearing communities to make these distinctions at the local level, while considering how histories of Spanish and US (or “American”) colonialisms have shaped access to Sign Language education in the archipelago. Because many understand Sign Languages as positive tools that facilitate accessibility for d/Deaf people, there is an assumption that introducing American Sign Language in Puerto Rico had a positive effect. Considering discourses from 1898 to the present, this ethnography brings together the fields of disability studies and linguistic anthropology to illuminate how stigmas attached to Emerging Sign Languages can teach us much about contemporary ideologies surrounding language, race, and disability in Puerto Rico.