Foucault and deaf education in Finland
The influence of Michel Foucault’s thinking in critical disability studies, and to social studies of deafness, can hardly be doubted. Foucault has offered valuable tools for the critical rethinking of deaf education and pedagogy with respect to normalization and disciplinary power, which are integrally related to the historical construction of deafness as deficiency and pathology by modern, medical, and psychological knowledge. This article explores the applicability and critical potential of the Foucauldian concepts of disciplinary power, surveillance, and normalization within the specific context of the history of deaf education in Finland. The article focuses on the modernization of the education of deaf children that began during the latter half of the nineteenth century in Finland, with the influence of oralism – a pedagogical discourse and deaf-education methods of German origin. Deafness was characterized as a pathology or abnormality of the most severe kind. When taken at the general level, Foucault’s well-known concepts are easily applicable to the analysis of deaf education, also in the Finnish context. However, it is argued that things become much more complex if we first examine more closely the roles played by the eye and the ear, by optic and aural experience, in these Foucauldian notions, and if we then relate this enquiry to our analysis of oralist pedagogy and deaf education.
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