Contemporary Deaf Performers: Focusing on Joel Barish

by Sara Huang


(Taipei, Taiwan)

I have read a lot about the oppression of the Deaf, but I really appreciate people who have embraced Deaf culture and have a passion for studying the social fabric of Deaf people in other countries. Joel Barish has traveled the globe and has been filmed with Deaf people from all walks of life. He has visited the Deaf Artist Street (about 25 minutes from where I live) in Taiwan, visited shop owners in Thailand, and Chocolatiers in…I forget where, but it was great to watch. His programs prove again and again that Deaf people are skilled, competent, intelligent, and unique–that they are on par with hearing people and should be respected and valued as contributing members of society.

I wish his programs would get more exposure, especially in the Hearing world. People are so grossly misinformed, placing limits on what the Deaf can or cannot do. In Taiwan, for example, many Deaf people clean for a living. Wiping down tables, folding laundry, mopping floors and cleaning windows are seen as suitable, but most Hearing people here would never dream of a Deaf person becoming a distinguished author, or a thriving business person, or a respected educator. Such jobs are deemed “appropriate” for the Hearing world, and when a Deaf person crashes through the invisible barrier of oppression and makes a name for him or herself, the world at large, to my disgust and disappointment, stands shocked.

That is why I believe Joel Barish’s work to be so important. He is exposing the world to the thriving, vibrant cultures of so many Deaf individuals and I hope, in time, that his segments will gain more attention. The world needs to be informed, and Joel Barish informs in an exciting, educational sort of way.

~Fin~