David Ensminger's Blog

Abandoning the Ear? Punk and Deaf Convergences Part I

By David Ensminger
Originally published by PopMatters
November 12th, 2012

The vibrant subcultures of deaf and punk communities have a long, storied, and interwoven under-the-radar past that sheds light on both allies.

Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons

For decades, describing the voice of iconic punk performers has constituted the normalized narrative of punk rock critiques. The supposed raw power and authenticity of the genre link to such orality. The “barbaric-yawp” of Joe Strummer, much-idolized singer and guitarist of the Clash, shapes perceptions of his stirring streetwise ideology. Johnny Rotten’s persona, in turn, is subsumed by the filth, ugliness, and vitriol of his “ruthless-growl,” endlessly dissected by writers preserving such tropes. Those voices act as memes emanating from the shabby urban milieu of London in the mid-’70s.

In particular, writers fetishize Strummer as a shrewd punk messiah figure and a late-20th century soapbox orator-style radical subsumed by ‘passion as a fashion’. Often strikingly glib and pithy, his tumultuous, breathless, bunched-up words still sprinkle punk’s imagined collective memory. They become the fodder for folk hero status, signal his clairvoyance, and define him as a ‘common Joe’, in American parlance, on the brink of genius. He became a dialectician of ardor and gut feeling. In death, his voice became paterfamilias.

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