Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Cerebral Subject and the Challenge of Neurodiversity

  • Francisco Ortega (a1)

The neurodiversity movement has so far been dominated by autistic people who believe their condition is not a disease to be treated and, if possible, cured, but rather a human specificity (like sex or race) that must be equally respected. Autistic self-advocates largely oppose groups of parents of autistic children and professionals searching for a cure for autism. This article discusses the positions of the pro-cure and anti-cure groups. It also addresses the emergence of autistic cultures and various issues concerning autistic identities. It shows how identity issues are frequently linked to a ‘neurological self-awareness’ and a rejection of psychological interpretations. It argues that the preference for cerebral explanations cannot be reduced to an aversion to psychoanalysis or psychological culture. Instead, such preference must be understood within the context of the diffusion of neuroscientific claims beyond the laboratory and their penetration in different domains of life in contemporary biomedicalized societies. Within this framework, neuroscientific theories, practices, technologies and therapies are influencing the ways we think about ourselves and relate to others, favoring forms of neurological or cerebral subjectivation. The article shows how neuroscientific claims are taken up in the formation of identities, as well as social and community networks.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

N. Bagatell (2007). Orchestrating voices: Autism, identity and the power of discourse. Disability & Society, 22, 413426.

S. Baron-Cohen (2002). The extreme male brain theory of autism. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 248254.

C. Brownlow , & L. O’Dell (2006). Constructing an autistic identity: AS voices online. Mental Retardation, 44, 315321.

K. Bumiller (2008). Quirky citizens: Autism, gender, and reimagining disability. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society, 33, 967991.

B. Chamak (2008). Autism and social movements: French parents’ associations and international autistic individuals’ organizations. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30, 7696.

B. Chamak , B. Bonniaua , E. Jaunay , & D. Cohen (2008). What can we learn about autism from autistic persons? Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77, 271279.

P. Churchland (1981). Eliminative materialism and the propositional attitudes. Journal of Philosophy, 78(2), 6790.

J. Clarke , & G. van Amerom (2007). ‘Surplus suffering’: Differences between organizational understandings of Asperger's syndrome and those people who claim the ‘disorder’. Disability & Society, 22, 761776.

J. Clarke , & G. van Amerom (2008). Asperger's Syndrome: Differences between parents’ understanding and those diagnosed. Social Work in Health Care, 46(3), 85106.

J. Davidson (2007) ‘In a world of her own …’: Re-presenting alienation and emotion in the lives and writings of women with autism. Gender, Place and Culture, 14, 659677.

J. Davidson (2008). Autistic culture online: Virtual communication and cultural expression on the spectrum. Social & Cultural Geography, 9(7), 791806.

J. Dumit (2003). Is it me or my brain? Depression and neuroscientific facts. Journal of Medical Humanities, 24, 3548.

E. Feinberg , & J. Vacca (2000). The drama and trauma of creating policies on autism: Critical issues to consider in the new millennium. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 15(3), 130137.

B.J. Freeman , & P. Cronin (2002). Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in young children: An update. Infants and Young Children, 14(3), 110.

I. Hacking (2009). Autistic autobiography. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B, 364, 14671473.

R. Jones , & T.O. Meldal (2001). Social relationships and Asperger's syndrome: A qualitative analysis of first-hand accounts. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 5, 3541.

R.S.P. Jones , A. Zahl , & J.C. Huws , (2001). First-hand accounts of emotional experiences in autism: A qualitative analysis. Disability & Society, 16, 393401.

I.M. Kenway (2009). Blessing or curse? Autism and the rise of the internet. Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, 13, 94103.

L.J. Kirmayer (1988). Mind and body as metaphors: Hidden values in biomedicine. In M. Lock and D.R. Gordon (Eds), Biomedicine examined, 5793. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

E. Martin (2000). Mind–body problems. American Ethnologist, 27, 569590.

E. Martin (2007). Bipolar expeditions: Mania and depression in American culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

C.J. Newschaffer , & L.K. Curran (2003). Autism: An emerging public health problem. Public Health Reports, 118(5), 393399.

D. Rees , & S. Rose (Eds) (2004). The new brain sciences: Perils and prospects. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

P. Rodriguez (2006). Talking brains: A cognitive semantic analysis of an emerging folk neuropsychology. Public Understanding of Science, 15, 301330.

C.E. Rosenberg (2006). Contested boundaries: Psychiatry, disease, and diagnosis. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 49, 407424.

C. Silverman (2008b). Fieldwork on another planet: Social science perspectives on the autism spectrum. BioSocieties, 3, 325341.

G. Valentine , T. Skelton , & R. Butler (2003). Coming out and outcomes: Negotiating lesbian and gay identities with, and in, the family. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 21, 479499.

F. Vidal (2009). Brainhood, anthropological figure of modernity. History of the Human Sciences, 22, 536.

S. Vrecko (2006). Folk neurology and the remaking of identity. Molecular Interventions, 6, 300303.

M. Waltz (2005). Reading case studies of people with autistic spectrum disorders: A cultural studies approach to issues of disability representation. Disability & Society, 20, 421435.

I. Wickelgren (2005). Autistic brains out of synch? Science, 308, 18561858.

S. Wilson , & L. Peterson (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual Review of Anthropology, 31, 449467.

L. Wing (1997). The history of ideas on autism: Legends, myths and reality. Autism, 1, 1323.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1745-8552
  • EISSN: 1745-8560
  • URL: /core/journals/biosocieties
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *