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“Neurodiversity & the politics of autism diagnosis” - Dr Ginny Russell (University of Exeter)

Egenis Seminar

Autism diagnosis is a site of political mobilisation, as well as biomedicalisation. While some patients seek diagnosis, others argue diagnosis is damaging to their integrity. One new alliance that sometimes contests autism diagnosis is known as the neurodiversity movement. The movement comprises politically mobilised adults with autism who frame their neurological difference as a valuable aspect of human variation and argue against medical diagnosis and treatment claiming it pathologizes normal behaviour. The label of autism provides a good illustration of some of the issues within ‘sociology of diagnosis’. Here diagnosis is not only as a method of categorisation, but also a social transactional process; an intervention in itself with consequences for health. In the case of autism, diagnosis dichotomises a series of normally distributed traits, such as reciprocal social ability, communication etc. Increased application of autism diagnosis comes with clear costs and benefits; and its use is frequently contested. This talk is centred on the content of a recent grant application to the Wellcome Trust. I will present an overview of a proposed programme of work covering theoretical issues, research questions, proposed design and methods.

Event details


Byrne House