UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Accomplishing the sighted world Michalko, Rod


Blindness is commonly and ordinarily understood to be an exclusively physiological phenomenon. That is, the genesis of blindness is typically framed within a physiological paradigm. Thus, blindness is commonly understood to be caused by a malfunction of the physiological processes of seeing. It is precisely within this physiological paradigm that research on blindness, for the most part, is framed. Further it is commonly and ordinarily understood that blind persons perceive the world inaccurately. Within this perspective, it is held that blind persons must be "taught" various aspects of the "sighted world" in order that they may live as "normally" as possible within this world. Thus, research in the area of blindness typically aims at the formulation of rehabilitative methods and procedures whereby blind persons are "taught" what it is they have to know in order to coexist with sighted others in a "sighted world". In short, then, investigators of blindness are typically involved in speculating about how it is that blind persons should live. This sort of speculation, however, precludes any-understanding of how it is that blind persons do live and, thus, avoids any understanding of how blind persons interact with, sighted others in a "sighted world". This study represents an investigation of at least some of the ways in which blind persons understand the "sighted world" and some of the ways in which blind persons socially interact within this "sighted world". Thus, blindness is treated here not merely as a physiological phenomenon, but rather as a social phenomenon. The method of participant observation is utilized to develop an ethnography of blindness in order to demonstrate some of the ways that blind persons interact with sighted others within a "sighted world". Further, ethnographic data is presented and analyzed in an attempt to show how blind persons accomplish the "sighted world". Blind persons are involved in an activity which, within sociological terms, can be called "passing". Conventionally, "passing" is understood as an activity engaged in by socially stigmatized persons in an attempt to conceal their social stigma. Blind persons, however, are not involved in "passing" only in an attempt to conceal their blindness from others, instead, blind persons are involved in "passing" in order to display their knowledge of, understanding of, acceptance of, and deference to the paramount reality, name the "sighted world".

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