Eyeth: a planet of the Eyean people

In one of my ASL 101/111 classes, the students learned about some appropriate general terms and meanings, such as the difference between 'deaf' and 'Deaf'.

In conclusion, I showed the slide on the projection screen, "Someone posted the question: How would you like to define 'Deaf'?" and the answer.

"I'd rather define it as a person who has higher spatial skill, higher motion-detection skill, wider peripheral visions, and being a visual person instead of 'can't hear'. They define hearing as a person who can hear. We need positive connotation to define Deaf."" -- Evan Johnson, September 9, 2013. "Deafhood Politics Now" page on Facebook.

The students read this and nodded.

Then, just below the quote, I snapped my control that popped up an additional quote on the screen.

"Maybe on Eyeth, they define hearing as a person who can't deaf." -- Evan Johnson.

The students laughed.

They laughed. But, did they understand the term "Eyeth"? To double check, I pointed to the word and asked them what it meant (of course, all in ASL as always). Some got it. Many students shook their head.

On the whiteboard, I wrote "EARth" and circled EAR in the word. Then I wrote EYEth and circled EYE in the word. The students laughed. They truly got the quote fully this time.

What is Eyeth?

Eyeth is a term for an imaginary planet for "people of the eye", in which everyone speaks in visual-manual modality, unlike Earth where everyone speaks in vocal-auditory modality.

Hearing people who live on Eyeth are considered a minority. The origin of the term Eyeth is unknown. It probably has been passed on from the older generations to the present.

Eyeth in Literature

There is a number of stories, films, and videos on the concept of Eyeth. Many of them don't use the term "Eyeth" directly, but use the same concept of the "reversed world".

I'm Not From Hear. Catherine MacKinnon
Screenshot from "I'm Not From Hear" by Deaf filmmaker Catherine MacKinnon

I'm Not From Hear, (2003, 22min) by Deaf filmmaker Catherine MacKinnon, features "a young hitchhiker who wanders into a silent town, one where the entire population is deaf."

Speak in ASL
Screenshot from Speak in ASL (2005)

Speak in ASL (2005) by Deaf media artist Jolanta Lapiak is a candid video, recording hearing people as if they were in the Deaf world. The artist and her friend randomly approached hearing people and casually talked with them in ASL.

Destination Eyeth
Screenshot from "Destination Eyeth" (2010)

"Destination Eyeth" (2010) by Arthur Luhn is a humorous short film. This film/video tells a story about an Einstein-like ASL scientist who figures out a way to build a machine that allows him to transport himself to Eyeth, the planet where everyone speaks in sign language.

"Eyeth is an imaginary planet occupied by signers, a part of Deaf mythology. While a lot of Hollywood films have depicted ASL culture in a rather dreary light. I chose to use comedy to present this mythology." -- Arthur Luhn.

Exploring Deaf World

Imagine yourself: you are transported from Earth in a time-space shipcraft to Eyeth to explore another civilization of language and culture. Your destination is the visual-manual world of "heyeing" people.

Your first encounter on Eyeth is probably people who manually speak to you in Ameslan (ASL) or another signed language. Not only you might learn a new language and acquire their language, but you also would learn some about their ways of life, arts, technologies and so on, such as videophone, movies in ASL with subtitles for hearing minority, vibration-based music, and so on.

Wish that Eyeth actually exists? Good news, Eyeth occupies on the same planet as Earth and your body is the shipcraft that requires little time-space. Although this planet is a phonocentric-dominated culture, there are ocularcentric sign-language communities all over the world as well as the Internet. Only if you can find them.

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