“Discursive Constructions of Autism: Boundaries and Borderlands”, 2014 RSA Conference

Rhetoric Society of America Conference, 22nd-26th May 2014

Adam Pacton (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), ampacton@uwm.edu

As autism receives increasing popular, political, medical, and rhetorical attention, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve any sort of consensus on what “autism” actually is. Is it a purely medical or psychological designator? Is it an impairment, a disability, both, neither? Is it simply another way of being-in-the-world that though different is not deficient?

These questions and ones like them locate autism at the confluence of multiple, often competing, discourses. The purpose of this panel is to explore, trace, and problematize the discursive borders that seek to define and delimit “autism” and try to understand in some small way what we can learn about how and why these discourses crash together in sometimes explosive ways.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Asperger’s Syndrome and its disappearance in the DSM-V
  • Representations of prevalence rates
  • Autism as disability, impairment, and embodied/enacted identity
  • Medical vs. psychological vs. rhetorical constructions of autism
  • Competing medical discourses (Defeat Autism Now vs. American Medical Association)
  • Diagnosis (medical, personal, social)
  • “Autistic writing”
  • The limits of the “neurotypical”
  • Inclusion and accommodation
  • Mindblindness and affect
  • “Severe” and “high-functioning” autism

To be considered for this panel, please submit the following to Adam Pacton at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by April 30th:

  • a proposal of 500 words or less
  • a brief (2-4 sentence) scholarly bio

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