Popular Narratives of the Cochlear Implant

Picture shows two teenagers, Bay and Daphne, the protagonists of the TV series Switched at Birth SWITCHED AT BIRTH - ABC Family's "Switched at Birth" stars Katie Leclerc as Daphne Vasquez and Vanessa Marano as Bay Kennish. (ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES)

How is hearing with cochlear implants mediated in TV series, documentaries, youtube videos etc.? The contribution by Anna Grebe, Markus Spöhrer and Robert Stock (SP2) analyzes this  issue by considering a range of popular narratives and audiovisual productions like TV series Switched at birth. The article was just published in the edited volume Handbook of Popular Culture and Biomedicine (Springer).


In contemporary medical discourse as well as in the field of Disability Studies, the problems concerning the Cochlear implant (CI) gave rise to a series of controversies. While medical discourses or viscourses imply a natural process of hearing, the counterargument is that “normal hearing” is a social and cultural construction, which depends on a corresponding “thought style”. However, such constructions of normality, disability, inclusion and exclusion are not only produced or criticized by scientific or journalistic mediatizations but also to a large degree by popular narrative media. Consequently, this paper analyzes the specific filmic-narrative appropriation, reworking and interpretation of discourses on the CI in popular media formations such as TV series, medical-technological viscourses in documentaries and Youtube videos. The thesis is that narrative media cannot be considered a mere reproduction of scientific or social discourses, but instead functions as productions of reality. Thus, narrative media is capable of (co)producing (in mutual exchange with social and medical discourses) interpretations, evaluations of normality and disability.

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