Ordering burgers, reordering relations: Gestural interactions between hearing and d/Deaf Nepalis

Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway


This article analyzes gestural interactions between hearing and d/Deaf Nepalis to argue that local understandings of the consequences of these engagements make visible ways of ideologizing gesture that may be obscured by the gestural typologies widely used by scholars. In Nepal, d/Deafness is associated with ritual pollution that can be shared across persons. Consequently, the use of gesture in a communicative interaction can both presuppose the presence of a polluted d/Deaf body and creatively index the transmission of that pollution to a hearing interlocutor. By the same token, gesturally engaging with Deaf persons can index “modern” rejection of belief in ritual pollution on the part of the hearing participant. While many scholarly typologies of gesture focus on form and decontextualized reference, the pragmatic effects of gesture derived from and contributing to differently positioned personhoods are more significant in local ideologies in Nepal.

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