Elizabeth Mara Green

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Barnard College

Grant number

Gr. 9880

Approve Date

October 9, 2019

Project Title

Green, Elizabeth Mara (Barnard College) "The Fragility of Sense: Language, Ethics, and Understanding in Deaf Nepal"

My book, The Fragility of Sense: Language, Ethics, and Understanding in Deaf Nepal, draws on 23 months of fieldwork to explore what it means to live in a world where language cannot be taken for granted. In Nepal, roughly 5000 deaf persons – those involved in deaf schools and organizations – learn Nepali Sign Language (NSL). Most deaf persons, however, use “natural sign,” an NSL term that refers to communication using a fairly small repertoire of conventional signs complemented by iconic and indexical strategies. These particular characteristics make understanding natural sign both feasible and tenuous. Through ethnography and video analysis of interactions, this book reveals that making sense to and of others depends not only on the skillful use of available semiotic resources, but also on securing potential addressees’ attention and willingness. In other words, natural sign conversations become intelligible only when the people involved take the ethical position that such intelligibility is possible in the first place.