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Distributed for HAU

Being and Hearing

Making Intelligible Worlds in Deaf Kathmandu

Distributed for HAU

Being and Hearing

Making Intelligible Worlds in Deaf Kathmandu

How do deaf people in different societies perceive and conceive the world around them?  Drawing on three years of anthropological fieldwork in Nepali deaf communities, Being and Hearing shows how questions of cultural difference are profoundly shaped by local habits of perception. Beginning with the premise that philosophy and cultural intuition are separated only by genre and pedigree, Peter Graif argues that Nepali deaf communities—in their social sensibilities, political projects, and aesthetics of expression—present innovative answers to the very old question of what it means to be different.
From pranks and protests, to diverse acts of love and resistance, to renewed distinctions between material and immaterial, deaf communities in Nepal have crafted ways to foreground the habits of perception that shape both their own experiences and how they are experienced by the hearing people around them. By exploring these often overlooked strategies, Being and Hearing makes a unique contribution to ethnography and comparative philosophy.

160 pages | 11 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Malinowski Monographs

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

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"In this innovative ethnography of deafness and sign language in Nepal, Peter Graif manages to combine meticulous empirical detail with reflections that could guide reconsiderations of the nature of language in different cultures. He takes the reader on this trip by using rich ethnographic cases that make his book extremely  accessible. . . . Graif has written an important book that also sets the stage for a significant inquiry into the nature of anthropological work and its concepts and intuitions."

American Ethnologist

"In a rich and poignant ethnography, Peter Graif explores the perpetual 'discovery' of deaf people within the landscape of what he calls 'hearing Nepal'. . . . This account will be of interest to students and scholars of linguistic anthropology, deaf studies, disability studies, and communication studies. Being and Hearing contributes to our understanding of how all people, deaf and hearing, engage the ethical commitment of communicating with and making sense of each other."


"In addition to contributing to anthropology, philosophy, and the study of language, the book is a delight to read. Much of the book focuses on humorous vignettes and practical jokes deaf people play on the hearing, lending a readability to what otherwise could be dense analysis. . . . One of the strengths of the book is its genre-defying nature, at once anthropology and philosophy, allowing it to examine questions of subjectivity, perception, and language in new light."


 An amazingly rich and diverse ethnographic account of what may otherwise be seen as a homogenously ‘disabled’ community. Each chapter is carefully considered, following one or two main ‘protagonists,’ or ethnographic informants, whose stories Graif analyses as part of a larger sociopolitical narrative of navigating invisibility and intelligibility within a world dominated by sacred sound. . . . His analyses are ground-breaking in providing a new way of thinking about sensorial engagement that is both inclusive and empowering to the ‘disabled’—a term Graif questions—whose voices are not always heard. In Being and Hearing, Graif reminds us that we cannot be complicit in our lack of understanding(s) and that ‘intelligibility’ is a worthy goal for all."

Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford

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