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Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen: Gender and Race Through Blind Eyes

Ellyn Kaschak
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Sight Unseen
    Book Description:

    Sight Unseenreveals the cultural and biological realities of race, gender, and sexual orientation from the perspective of the blind. Through ten case studies and dozens of interviews, Ellyn Kaschak taps directly into the phenomenology of race, gender, and sexual orientation among blind individuals, along with the everyday epistemology of vision. Kaschak's work reveals not only how the blind create systems of meaning out of cultural norms but also how cultural norms inform our conscious and unconscious interactions with others regardless of our physical ability to see.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53953-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. 1 The Eye of the Beholder
    (pp. 1-15)

    We contemporary citizens of the planet live in an increasingly visually based and even voyeuristic world, depending more than ever on our eyes to provide information, communication, sexual stimulation, entertainment, and pleasure of all sorts. There is no way to deny that we are rapidly becoming more and more dependent on our ubiquitous visual prosthetic devices, no longer including only television and film, but computer screens, increasingly smarter smart phones, Google glasses, and all the other newly emerging “personal devices.” Are we actually evolving into a species ever more dependent on visual information and communication and less aware of this...

  5. 2 Blind Date
    (pp. 16-36)

    Rather than just imagining one, I am about to enter a sightless universe. I hope that what I see and don’t see will help answer my questions and yours. The human senses create invisibility in the very act of visibility. We relegate most of the sights and sounds all around us to the unconscious, which gives the conscious mind respite from the constant assault of sensory stimuli. Otherwise the flux of sights impinging on the human nervous system every moment would be overwhelming. If we could see the world with bumblebee eyes, we would experience an entirely different fragmented environment....

  6. 3 The Color of Blindness
    (pp. 37-55)

    Somewhere along the educational way, most Western students are introduced to the poetry of Homer, theIliadand theOdyssey, and taught that he was a blind man. This myth is meant to induce awe that he could be blind and so accomplished. I would not want to be a blind student in those classes. I’m sure I would feel that I had something enormous to prove. Attending school in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I know that I felt this way because of my gender. My aspirations were not considered appropriate for a girl, even one who could...

  7. 4 Hiding in Plain Sight
    (pp. 56-67)

    All of us live on multiple mattering maps along with physical ones. On mattering maps the terrain looks different in the eyes of each person because it matters differently to each of them. A mattering map is based on the complex cultural and personal values and experiences of each person. This concept, in different guises, is at the core of many psychological theories, including my own (Kaschak 1993, 2010, 2013.) Accordingly, coming to know another person evolves from coming to understand her or his perspectives and meanings—that is, what matters to the person. A relationship thus involves managing two...

  8. 5 Looks Are Everything
    (pp. 68-87)

    Samantha is a sexy blind woman. She works at it. And I’m sure she would be happy to hear me say so. She had many affairs and sexual trysts before marrying, and she may be having them still when the opportunity presents itself. Which it does.

    I first met her at a national conference as a colleague. She did an interesting presentation about couples’ therapy, and, speaking with her afterward, I learned that she practiced in the area where I taught clinical psychology. We stayed in contact and, some time later, I invited her to supervise one of my graduate...

  9. 6 Three’s Company
    (pp. 88-110)

    Luke, flor, and laney are in their mid–thirties to early forties, Flor being the oldest, and are roommates. In a twenty–first–century update of the television showThree’s Company, they share a small house in Santa Clara, California, part of the seamless suburban Silicon Valley. Each is, according to the American classification system, of a different race. One is Latina, one African American, and the other Caucasian. That translates into brown, black, and white to the American eye.

    What can these designations mean to three blind people? How do their own ideas about themselves as racialized and gendered...

  10. 7 Talking Black: THE COLOR CODE
    (pp. 111-119)

    Janine’s experience with luke and flor was about to be reflected in another series of seemingly recursive cultural mirrors. One of my students, Adrian, contracted the flu in the early days of this project. As a result, he spoke with Sonia several times by telephone before meeting her in person. In the familiar pattern of cultural synesthesia, Sonia “sounded black.” Based on their telephone conversations, Adrian instantly and without conscious thought assumed that she was a black woman. This reaction is common enough to be readily recognizable to sighted telephone users and is also, in fact, the very manner in...

  11. 8 Double Blind: ABIGAIL
    (pp. 120-143)

    Abigail and gabrielle are identical twins. That is, their lives sprung from a shared group of cells and then developed in the same womb. They share so much, including being blind. Although identical twins have the same DNA and thus have many characteristics in common, the differences in experience and environment make them far from identical. In fact, it has been said that, in the conversation between nature and nurture, the latter has the louder voice (Lipton 2006a, b; Bird 2007; Haque, Gottesman II, and Wong 2009; Jablonka and Raz 2009). There has been nowhere better for scientists to eavesdrop...

  12. 9 Double Blind: GABRIELLE
    (pp. 144-154)

    I tried to meet abigail and her twin sister, Gabrielle, together, but I finally gave up just on the cusp of becoming annoying to them. How many times could I ask? They jealously guard their shared time and do not want to permit intrusion. Knowing how close they are as twins, both blinded at birth, I cannot say that I blame them. Not only would they have lost their precious time together, our conversation would have been complicated and challenging. There would be so much to explain, so many words required, and all these words in my language rather than...

  13. 10 Blind Citizenship Classes: THE MIRROR DOES NOT REFLECT
    (pp. 155-161)

    I had one more stop on my journey through blind territory before feeling confident of my observations and conclusions, and that involved visiting a formal institution of learning. Back to school. There is a school for blind children and adolescents not far from the university where I teach in San Jose. I was able to arrange to visit several times along with some of my own students, the ones engaged in this project with me. We set out one morning to spend our first of several days there, a caravan of cars winding down California Highway 101, adding our bulk...

  14. 11 Not Seeing Is Also Believing
    (pp. 162-174)

    We have finally arrived back at the beginning, the starting place of all our questions. Can we “know the place for the first time?” (Eliot 2011). I believe that we can know it much more thoroughly and deeply after our excursion. I have now borne witness repeatedly, as have all of you accompanying me, through intimate relationship with many blind people; they have all proven themselves to be avid students of a visual code of which the sighted are scarcely aware. They firmly believe in what they cannot see. They cannot see a hairstyle in combination with a face, clothing,...

    (pp. 175-180)
    (pp. 181-188)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 189-194)