Autism and Society: Taking Stock of the History and Meaning of Autism Research

Current debates about the present and future of autism research generally focus on scientific discovery and are fitted into the framework of the scientific method. This panel departs from convention to “take stock” of the field, and explore autism research as a system of knowledge and practices in social, historical, and economic context. The questions at the core of this panel concern the various and sometimes contradictory aspects of the field of autism research: How has the definition of autism changed over time for a range of individuals, communities, and audiences, and what factors led to those changes? What kinds of authority (e.g., institutional, bureaucratic, academic, legislative, familial) have structured, and been structured by, scientific representations of autism? Is autism a disease, a disability, or an aspect of a ‘normal’ range of human variation? Is autism singular, or do the boundaries and definitions of the category constrain the ability of researchers and clinicians to address the dimensions of autism as outcomes of a common set of developmental pathways shared by all humans? Speakers from the fields of anthropology, disability rights, linguistics, and epidemiology will employ historical, ethnographic, philosophical, and public health perspectives to explain the dramatic changes in the field of autism research over the past several decades and outline possibilities for the future.
Thursday, May 14, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:30 PM
Grand Ballroom B (Grand America Hotel)
Panel Chair:
R. R. Grinker