1887
3- Medical Humanities in the Middle East Conference
  • EISSN: 2223-506X

Abstract

Based on five months of ethnographic fieldwork at an audiology department in Amman, Jordan, this paper anthropologically examines the provision of hearing technologies to deaf Jordanians as forms and practices of care (Livingston, 2012; McKay, 2018; Stevenson, 2014). Aside from hearing aids, the department also provides cochlear implants—medical devices implanted via surgery that aim to provide people with hearing loss with some electronic access to sound—to deaf Jordanians, in partnership with a state-affiliated initiative that has distributed more than 1,170 cochlear implants since its establishment in 2010. I ask: how do deaf Jordanians engage with the cochlear implant and other medical technologies, and the biomedical imaginaries in which they are embedded, within and outside the clinical encounter? The cochlear implant and, to a lesser degree, the hearing aid (Edwards, 2010), was controversial when it was first introduced in North America, where some deaf people saw cochlear implantation as a form of cultural “genocide” (Ladd, 2003; Lane et al., 1996; Padden & Humphries, 1988). The cochlear implant has not only become increasingly normalized in the U.S. (Mauldin, 2016) but has also spread transnationally as a medical technology for deaf people in Japan (Nakamura, 2006), India (Friedner, 2018), Mexico (Pfister, 2019), and elsewhere. As cochlear implants have become more prevalent in Jordan, they have become linked not only to debates about language—as I found during preliminary research in 2019 (Loh, 2022)—but also to broader questions about development (cf. Sargent, 2019b) and political economy in a materially under-resourced context where unemployment rates are high. Based on participant observation at the hospital and interviews with clinicians and patients, I argue that care is a useful analytic tool to understand the ambivalence with which many deaf Jordanians view these technologies, in its doublehanded recognition of how such technologies can be useful developmentally—in potentially providing access to speech and presumably better integration into society—but also problematic socio-politically—in diminishing their sense of belonging to broader deaf collectivities. I draw upon medical anthropology, science and technology studies, and “a disability-centered anthropology of the Middle East” (Sargent, 2019a) to ethnographically demonstrate the social life of these hearing technologies in Jordan.

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/content/journals/10.5339/connect.2022.medhumconf.7
2022-08-31
2022-10-04
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References

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