“Sight Unseen: Gender and Race Through Blind Eyes” by Ellyn Kaschak— The Blind and Race, Gender and Sexuality

sight unseen

Kaschak, Ellyn. “Sight Unseen: Gender and Race Through Blind Eyes”, Columbia University Press, 2015.

The Blind and Race, Gender and Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Since one of my closest friends is blind (albeit a straight woman but who has never seen me), I found this book to be very important to read not just to better understand her but also to better understand anyone who has a disability.

“Sight Unseen” looks at the cultural and biological realities of race, gender, and sexual orientation from the perspective of the blind. Using ten case studies and many interviews, Ellyn Kaschak explores the phenomenology of race, gender, and sexual orientation among the blind individuals alongside of the everyday epistemology of vision. She shows us not only how the blind create their own systems of meaning out of the norms of their culture cultural norms but also how cultural norms affect our conscious and unconscious interactions with others regardless of our physical ability to see.

Kaschak gives us some unique insights as to the way the blind perceive and understand gender, race and sexual orientation as well as how these become part of our own conscious and unconscious interactions with one another regardless of our physical ability to see.

I have often wondered if there is a line between the seen and the unseen world”. Here we read illuminating stories about race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, and disability. The author’s study is part psychology, part ethnographic research and it tells us so much about the ways that others live. It is rare to have a book that is so filled with heart as this one. Learning about the invisibility of assumptions about race and gender teaches us about privilege, compassion and the search to belong. This is a moving and astonishing union of wisdom, originality and course.

 We enter the lives of blind people, those who experience the social world and themselves without vision. The book asks then how do blind people conjure up race, gender, sexual orientation, desire, and desirability? The answers are fascinating and by letting us know how the blind “see,” Kaschak makes evident that which we should already know but don’t.