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M.A. in Deaf Studies: Cultural Studies

Dr. Joseph Murray, Program Coordinator

The Concentration in Cultural Studies is designed for students to gain a critical understanding of the position of the Deaf World within the context of human diversity by using a variety of theoretical approaches to the concepts of identity, ideology, resistance, and culture. Students will work a full academic year toward the completion of their Cultural Studies Research project which may take the form of a thesis or a creative, media related project. Research projects will be conducted under the guidance of faculty who instruct Cultural Studies Research Projects I and II. Graduates of the Cultural Studies concentration will be prepared to teach Deaf Studies at the post-secondary level, enter fields of advocacy, and pursue further research and education in anthropology, cultural studies, disability studies, and critical theory.


Admissions Procedures and Requirements

Applicants for the M.A. in Deaf Studies must complete the application procedures and meet the requirements for graduate study at Gallaudet University. Visit the Graduate Admissions web site for more information and a checklist of application requirements. Detailed program information and course descriptions are also available under the 'Overview' and 'Courses' tabs.



First Date for Consideration of Application: November 15
Due Date for Completed Application: February 15

Program Specific Requirements:

  • Three letters of reference
  • ASL Essay: Personal Statement. In video format, submit a personal statement of interest in the program. This essay will be used for 2 purposes. It will give help us understand your personal interest in our program and will also be used to determine your proficiency in ASL. Why are you applying for this degree? What do you hope to gain from the degree? What are your professional interests after you graduate?
  • Transcripts
  • ASLPI 3 or above.
  • GPA 3.0 or above.

Recommended Prior Coursework:

  • Introduction to Deaf Culture
  • Introduction to ASL Structure

Core Curriculum

All students admitted to the program must complete the following core courses with grades of B or higher.

Semester I (Fall)

ASL 709Sign Language Media Production3
DST 700Proseminar I1
DST 703Deaf Cultural Studies3
DST 705Sign & the Philosophy of Language3

Semester II (Spring)

DST 701Proseminar II1
DST 710Literary Traditions in the Deaf Community3
DST 712Enforcing Normalcy: Deaf and Disability Studies3
DST 714Critical Pedagogy3
HIS 731History of the American Deaf Community3

Cultural Studies Concentration

Semester III (Fall)

DST 733Theory & Identity in Deaf Studies3
DST 737Public Policy, Advocacy and the Deaf Community3
DST 780Cultural Studies Master's Project I3

Semester IV (Spring)

DST 735Visual Studies3
DST 781Cultural Studies Master's Project II1-3
DST 790Deaf Studies Internship3

ASL 709 - Sign Language Media Production (3)

Visual media has changed the way we communicate. With the advent of new tools and platforms, possibilities of publishing has proliferated, allowing a wider discourse of ideas to be shared with a vast audience. This course explores these opportunities and will introduce students to the tools and skills necessary to produce digital media. Through a hands-on approach, this course will allow students to capture, import and edit digital video in a variety of platforms and genres. Students will participate in a workshop approach to hone their skills at "writing" through digital media.

  • Prerequisites: Matriculation into the M.A. program in ASL & Deaf Studies or permission of the program coordinator.
  • Course Fee: $100.00

DST 700 - Proseminar I (1)

This one credit course is designed to introduce graduate students to contemporary research being conducted within Deaf Studies. Students will attend lectures and discussions by Department and University faculty, and will explore their own interests in Deaf Studies scholarship.

  • Prerequisites: Students must be matriculated in the Deaf Studies MA program.

DST 701 - Proseminar II (1)

This one credit course is designed to introduce students to research topics and methodologies within the field of Deaf Studies. Students will be introduced to fundamentals of the research process, including research ethics, the Institutional Review Board, grant writing, research methodologies. Proseminar II will prepare students to begin their Deaf Studies Master's Project.

  • Prerequisite: DST 700

DST 703 - Deaf Cultural Studies (3)

This course will explore the Deaf World through the various theoretical lens provided by the multidisciplinary field of Cultural Studies. Students will inquire into the diversity, complexities and commonalities of Deaf cultural experiences through research and class projects. This course serves as a cornerstone course that provides students with the theory and content that subsequent courses will build upon.

  • Prerequisites: Matriculated in DST MA Program

DST 705 - Sign & the Philosophy of Language (3)

This core course will examine the role that signed languages have played in the evolution of philosophical ideas concerning human identity, language and the senses. Rather than being seen as marginal areas of concern, signed languages have played an important role in the history of ideas and the philosophy of language. Course content will explore how both hearing and Deaf thinkers, artists, and writers have viewed signed languages throughout history, with special emphasis on 18th and 19th century France and 20th century linguistic and literary theory. This course will provide students with a historical and intellectual background to understand how signed languages, deafness, and deaf education have been constructed throughout history, and how 21st century issues of education, language and identity are informed by the evolution of philosophical perspectives.

  • Prerequisites: Matriculated in DST MA Program

DST 710 - Literary Traditions in the Deaf Community (3)

This course is designed as a thorough exploration of the literary traditions in the Deaf community. Attention will be given to the unique face-to-face nature of signed literature and its numerous traditional forms. Students will become versed in the stylists, poetics, and cultural contexts of signed literature in its live as well as video-text formats.

DST 712 - Enforcing Normalcy: Deaf and Disability Studies (3)

This class will explore the historical, medical, social, political, philosophical, and cultural influences that have constructed the categories of "normalcy", "disability" and "deafness". Building on the writing of Michel Foucault and critical work in the field of disability studies, this course will inquire into the institutions that have enforced standards of normalcy, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the present. Primary attention will be paid to the rise of medical authority in the West, the history of eugenics, and contemporary bioethical issues confronting disability and deaf communities.

DST 714 - Critical Pedagogy (3)

This course focuses on the field of inquiry known as Critical Pedagogy, which examines the role that education plays in shaping and transmitting the ideology of those in power. This course also inquires into the use of education as a means of resistance and emancipation. Particular focus will be given to the disparate conditions relating to the education of those populations considered to be in the margins, i.e.,class, race, ethnicity, gender, and disability.

DST 733 - Theory & Identity in Deaf Studies (3)

This course is designed to explore the various issues and complexities inherent in d/Deaf identity constructions. By drawing on contemporary theoretical practices, including Marxism, postcolonialism, feminism, structuralism, poststructuralism, queer theory and phenomenology, students will be encouraged to engage in a critical exchange between Deaf Studies and these theoretical lens.

  • Prerequisite: Completion of MA Deaf Studies Core Curriculum

DST 735 - Visual Studies (3)

This course investigates the role of vision, visual practices (and ideologies) and visual art in the Deaf Community. By drawing on theoretical approaches in the emerging field of Visual Studies this course will explore visual theories and perception, the politics of representation, the cultural practices of architecture, museums, memorials, film, video, sign literature and resistance art. Through discussions, projects, and presentations, students will gain and articulate a critical understanding of the role of vision and art in staking our Deaf space within a phonocentric world.

  • Prerequisite: Completion of MA Deaf Studies Core Curriculum

DST 737 - Public Policy, Advocacy and the Deaf Community (3)

This course examines deaf communities within the context of public policy and advocacy. Students will learn how to articulate their political positions and turn them into effective public administration and political advocacy. By understanding how public administration works and how it interacts with public policy development, both theoretically and practically, students can identify how political advocacy in the deaf community can be more effective. Students will map out a three-year advocacy plan for a national organization serving deaf and hard of hearing people.

  • Prerequisite: Completion of MA Deaf Studies Core Curriculum

DST 780 - Cultural Studies Master's Project I (3)

The Deaf Studies Master's Project is a required, culminating project which demonstrates student's exemplary achievement as a Master's student. Under the supervision of Department faculty, students will develop projects that significantly advance knowledge in either Cultural Studies or Language and Human Rights. Students may elect to produce a traditional Master's thesis, a creative project, or an applied advocacy project. During the first semester, students will develop and defend their project, including demonstration of the project's significance, appropriate research methodologies and a plan of action.

  • Prerequisite: Students must have successfully completed the first year of the DST MA program.

DST 781 - Cultural Studies Master's Project II (1-3)

The Deaf Studies' Master's Project is a required, culminating project which demonstrates students' exemplary achievement as a Master's student. Under the supervision of Department faculty, students will develop projects that significantly advance knowledge in either Cultural Studies or Language and Human Rights. Students may elect to produce a traditional Master's thesis, a creative project, or an applied advocacy project. During the second semester, students will present and defend their project.

  • Prerequisite: Students must have successfully completed the first year of the DST MA program and DST 780

DST 790 - Deaf Studies Internship (3)

Students will undertake an internship in a placement and role that is suited to their professional pursuits. These may include serving as Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants within the University or an off-site placement determined by the Department and student.

  • Prerequisites: 1st year core curriculum complete

HIS 731 - History of the American Deaf Community (3)

This course will introduce students to the history of the American Deaf community. While recent studies in social history have challenged our notions of race, class, and gender, historians have not yet fully addressed a fundamental component in our historical identity: physical ability and its underlying concept of normality. A close study of Deaf history offers one approach to this issue, and students will confront some of the specific issues facing this minority group. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which deafness has been interpreted within the mainstream community, as well as how the Deaf people expressed and preserved their cultural identity. By studying the changes in this group and its relation to hearing society, this course also raises broader issues of cultural identity in the United States.

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