Representing autism as a discourse within ableist economies of doubt

EBBEN, Hannah (2019). Representing autism as a discourse within ableist economies of doubt. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis explores the theme of epistemological uncertainty about autism in visual culture. It is based around the research question ‘What is the epistemology of autism as a discourse in the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), the CBBC Newsround special “My Autism and Me” (2011), and the YouTube video In My Language (2006)? My study of the representation of autism is constructionist and solely focused on autism as a discourse, and not on autism as a clinical condition. My critical consideration of the autism category in society is informed by Fiona Kumari Campbell’s definition of ableism: the normative power enforcement of abled-centric social standards. “My Autism and Me” and In My Language contain personal accounts of autistic people. In my thesis, I regard the personal account not as a static source on inside knowledge on life with autism, but as a relational process of acknowledgement of cultural texts as autistic voice. Each case study conveys the state of ‘not-knowing’ autism. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close portrays a character who is not definitively diagnosed with autism and whose characterisation invites audience speculation about the nature of his condition. “My Autism and Me” renders the abstract notion of autism concrete for a young audience and explains that the cause of autism is still unknown. In My Language problematises certainties about non-verbal autism by resisting the interpretation of non-verbal self-expression as meaningless. My thesis theorises these topics of speculating, rendering and resisting as important aspects of the cultural significance of epistemological doubt on autism. I propose the term ‘political economy of doubt’ to highlight that uncertainties on knowing autism are at the forefront of meaning exchange on the concept of autism. I argue that my case studies continue, rather than criticise, ableist normativity with their peculiar themes of knowing and not-knowing autism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Hodge, Nick [0000-0001-5706-1865]
Thesis advisor - Speidel, Suzanne
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Nick Hodge / Supervisor: Dr. Suzanne Speidel
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2023 16:03
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2023 02:01

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