My Name Is…

A first-year student who is learning Cambodian Sign Language watches second-year students practice the national anthem.

KAMPOT, Cambodia– With the faded blue wooden shutters thrown open, I sat at the desk in my sunlit, whitewashed room in a French colonial building on a quiet side street, scrolling through photographs on my laptop. As a gentle breeze from the ceiling fan curled over my bare feet, my day unfolded on the screen in captured moments. I clicked the trackpad, staring at the people I photographed, the changing expressions of fear, confusion, pride, and finally, hope, unmistakable on their faces.

These photographs were from the first day of the 2015 school year for a new cohort of deaf adult learners, some who are learning Cambodian Sign Language for the first time. For some of them, it is also the first time they have been in a classroom. This was one of the very few opportunities I had during fieldwork to observe contexts in which it was possible that some of the people involved would be seeing sign language for the first time. On several occasions on that day, I had to turn from the scene and walk, glassy-eyed, to the back of the room where I ostensibly examined a laminated map of Cambodia on the wall, blinking away my —> Read More Here


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