Michael Skyer

The Biosocial Foundation of Defectology: Examining Deaf Pedagogy in Sociohistorical Contexts

In Fundamentals of Defectology, Vygotsky (1993) succinctly argues: “There is not a single instance where the biological can be separated from the social” (p. 92). Although Defectology discretely examines social, biological, psychological, and methodological categories, its core argument is that none exist in isolation; instead, they flow as complex interactions, which produce traceable cultural histories. In kind, defectology, pedology, and pedagogy result from biological and social dimensions of human experiences coming into contact and generating syntheses that transcend their parts.

Given Vygotsky’s polymathic genius, it’s worth examining his biosocial claims about human developmental potential. I delimit my scope to critical disability and deaf education studies (e.g., defectology), and focus on understanding how the evolving science of deaf pedagogy is catalyzed by sociohistorical forces (e.g., power and self-determination) and axiology (e.g., ethics and aesthetics). For Vygotsky, deaf pedagogy works toward the sublation of deafness. Researchers and teachers must holistically examine the interactions and dialectics that flow together as sociocultural, psychological, discursive, developmental, and educational sub-processes. Research about deaf pedagogy, therefore, rests on biosocial foundations, where deafness is situated in and constructed by conflicts of culture, history, and socio-politics, including structural dilemmas and methodological dissensus.