Ethnographic research with Deaf children: Some methodological considerations

D West

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


This paper reflects on my dissertation, undertaken in 2001 for the Masters Degree in Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol. In presenting some of the issues surrounding the chosen methodology, critical ethnography, the following questions will be covered, and will form the basis for discussion: What was the overall aim of the study? What key methodological issues were raised? What attempts were made to explore, exploit, overcome or mitigate against these issues? What could be done differently? The dissertation began as an exploration of Deaf children's identity development, together with the strategies employed by Deaf professionals working with those children. From the outset, it was difficult to locate research with Deaf children which permitted them to paint their own pictures, describing their lives, knowledge, understanding and world views in their own language, thereby placing responsibility on the researcher to learn from those accounts. The decision to carry out a study which utilised critical ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviews was taken so as to make the familiar strange, to learn from Deaf children and adults, and to make inferences about their developing Deaf identities, by allowing them to be the experts on themselves. A critical ethnographic methodology allowed for the elicitation of data from within the informants' own cultural frameworks, and went some way to shifting the research away from more ethnocentric research traditions which seemed to categorise subjects according to pre-determined hypotheses. The vast amount of data collected over the period of a year stands testament to the potential of critical ethnography and to the need for much more of this type of research in order that we can begin to build up clearer, deeper, richer understandings of Deaf discourses, world views and epistemologies. The presentation addresses the following methodological issues in relation to the study: Tenets of Critical Ethnography; Reflexive practice - situating the researcher in the study; Academic research, power relationships and minority communities; Language, translation, and representation of Deaf voices. In opening up the presentation for discussion, the paper examines the attempts made to explore, exploit, overcome or mitigate against these challenges, and asks: what could be done differently?
Translated title of the contributionEthnographic research with Deaf children: Some methodological considerations
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationREMEDES ESRC seminar series, April 2003, University of Central Lancashire
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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