The Story of Berta and Andrew Foster — A Case Study in Global History (DFG-Project, 2022-2025)
Sometime in 1960, 21-year-old Berta Zuther (1939-2018) of West Berlin told her family that she had bought a ticket to Accra (Ghana), had procured the necessary visa and vaccinations, and was going to leave the following day to join African American missionary Andrew Jackson Foster (1925-1987) in building up schools and churches for the deaf in Africa. Both Berta and Andrew were deaf themselves. They had met in Wiesbaden (West Germany) during the 3rd International World Congress of the Deaf, which the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) had organized in 1959. They would get married in early 1961 in Ibadan (Nigeria). All in all, Andrew, supported by his wife, initiated 32 schools and churches for the deaf in 13 African countries.
This project aims to establish an interdisciplinary, intersectional, and transcultural approach to Deaf History by examining the lives and work of Andrew and Berta Foster, thus creating an exemplary case study in global history. Looking at the Foster’s activities mainly in Ghana and Nigeria, where they focused their efforts between 1957 and 1974, provides us with an opportunity to trace how American and German concepts of deaf education were adjusted to specific conditions in African countries while simultaneously being critically questioned. In doing so, the project continues to establish a person’s hearing status as an identity-forming category alongside a person’s ethnicity, class, and gender.
Image: © Faith Haynes