Critical autism studies: exploring epistemic dialogues and intersections, challenging dominant understandings of autism

O'Dell, Lindsay; Bertilsdotter Rosqvist, Hanna; Ortega, Francisco; Brownlow, Charlotte and Orsini, Michael (2016). Critical autism studies: exploring epistemic dialogues and intersections, challenging dominant understandings of autism. Disability & Society, 31(2) pp. 166–179.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2016.1164026

Abstract

In this paper we explore how our cultural contexts give rise to different kinds of knowledges of autism and examine how they are articulated, gain currency, and form the basis for policy, practice and political movements. We outline key tensions for the development of critical autism studies as an international, critical abilities approach. Our aim is not to offer a cross-cultural account of autism or to assume a coherence or universality of ‘autism’ as a singular diagnostic category/reality. Rather, we map the ways in which what is experienced and understood as autism, plays out in different cultural contexts, drawing on the notion of ‘epistemic communities’ to explore shifts in knowledge about autism, including concepts such as ‘neurodiversity’, and how these travel through cultural spaces. The paper explores two key epistemic tensions; the dominance of ‘neuro culture’ and dominant constructions of personhood and what it means to be human.

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