The Interplay of Deafness and Ethnicity in Processes of Identity Development: An Ethnographic Study Within the Penang Deaf Community in Malaysia



Chapter 2 presents the first research ever conducted on the interplay of deafness and ethnicity in the process of identity development in Penang, Malaysia. The authors used an ethnographic methodology to capture the voices of 4 deaf adults belonging to different ethnicities. Findings suggest that disability was more relevant than ethnicity in shaping individual and social identities within this particular context. Experiences of discrimination or belonging played a fundamental role in identity development, and these were primarily shaped by disability rather than ethnicity. For example, factors such as the lack of a common language between deaf children and hearing parents influenced children’s sense of identity. However, the authors also stress that participants mainly saw their identities as fluid and context-dependent rather than static and non-changing.


Deafness Ethnicity Identity development Sign language Malaysia 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GLOBI: Global Observatory for InclusionBrightonUK
  2. 2.University of RoehamptonLondonUK

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