“With the Practiced Eye of a Deaf Person”: Harriet Martineau, Deafness and the Scientificity of Social Knowledge

Nadav Gabay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The paper explains the important role played by Harriet Martineau in the scientization of British politics and consequently in the development of Victorian Social Science. I suggest that there is much we can learn about the scientificity of social knowledge from the relationship between Martineau’s deafness, her career as a social investigator and a reporter, and her reflections about the practice of social science. Because Martineau was a pioneer who entered into a field that was not yet institutionalized, her knowledge making practices inevitably reflects the particular dispositions that guided her innovations. Martineau’s exposure, early in her career, to the modus operandi of governmental social investigations by royal commissions and her experience with popularizing the products of these investigations via wide public opinion campaigns, coupled with Martineau’s specific dispositions as a deaf woman, facilitated her interest in mediating credible knowledge about society and helped her to develop an innovative methodological skill-set as a social investigator, which later on in her career made her a pioneer figure in the field of social science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-355
Number of pages21
JournalThe American Sociologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Deafness
  • Disability
  • Social science history
  • Victorian politics
  • Visual knowledge


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