The Open UniversitySkip to content

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.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (499kB) | Preview
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


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.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2016 Informa UK Limited
ISSN: 1360-0508
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Critical autism network: Policy, practice and identities in 5 national contextsIN-2014-035LEVERHULME The Leverhulme Trust
Keywords: Autism; critical autism studies; neurodiversity; epistemic communities
Academic Unit/School: Other Departments > Research and Academic Strategy
Other Departments
Research Group: Innovation, Knowledge & Development research centre (IKD)
Item ID: 46508
Depositing User: Lindsay O'Dell
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2016 13:32
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 10:34
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU