The emergence of a deaf economy
Author(s)Xu, Sheila Zhi
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
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Thesis: S.B. in Science in Humanities and Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 52-53).Introduction: The "deaf economy" is an emerging, new niche economic system taking shape within deaf communities globally. My research attempts to understand and describe the relationship of economic networks of deaf businesses, entrepreneurs, employees, and customers embedded in the "deaf economy." I came to discover that many social-cultural aspects of the deaf communities in my research, such as social ties and attitudes of solidarity, are one of the driving forces behind the "deaf economy." There were some studies done about the employment of the deaf in both United States and Europe in the past years. There are also few research studies done on the phenomenon of American deaf business-owners and entrepreneurs, but that was not the case for European deaf business-owners and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship has become a popular concept and research topic today in the mainstream society. However, there is very little research into entrepreneurship within the deaf communities. Hence, there is not much understanding of how the government, institutions, and other people could advocate for entrepreneurism within the deaf communities, especially in the United States and Europe. Despite such little information, in the last few decades, there has been a substantial increase in employment and education of the deaf in both United States and Europe, which also incidentally shows an increase in phenomenon of deaf business-owners and entrepreneurs. However, I believe there is virtually no research into the concept of the "deaf economy", an economic network of deaf businesses, employees, and consumers. In 2012 and 2013, I was looking for a possible research topic on the deaf population for my summer projects. By chance, in 2012, I had happened to come across Professor W. Scot Atkins's dissertation on the lived experiences of fourteen American deaf entrepreneurs.1 Professor Atkins is currently a Rochester Institute of Technology business professor interested in deaf entrepreneurism. In our email correspondence, he had indicated the need for research into the concept of the "deaf economy," so I had decided to take on the initiative to answer this simple research question: "What is the deaf economy?" Secondary questions include: "What are the composition and attributes of the 'deaf economy' for Europe? How does it compare to American 'deaf economy'?" In order to answer those questions, I have selected certain sites of my case studies in different geographic locations using a qualitative or ethnographic approach: California and Las Vegas, Nevada (United States) and London, France, and Bulgaria (Europe). Also, I was hoping to discover the premises of the "deaf economy" similar to the concept of an "ethnic economic enclave" and conduct a short comparative analysis between the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the research. My research focuses only on the "deaf economy" of first-world, developed, capitalistic countries, such as the United States and England/France. I also had time constraints, since all of my research was done during summer vacations, so I was not able to go in-depth as much as I wanted to. Also, during my fieldwork, I came to realization that the "deaf economy" is a very broad topic and encompasses wide range of areas worthy of further examination in the future. My qualitative research is by no means rigorous as a dissertation research would be. Also, it is based on my own selected interviews and field observations, so my research may or may not be generalizable, especially if my research were to be replicated in the future. However, I would like to use this research opportunity to point out my interesting observations of the "deaf economy" and help to open up a potential new research topic for future research initiatives.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.