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Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology: Events


Autism, Anthropology and Lived Experience: An interdisciplinary symposium

Autism, Anthropology and Lived Experience: An interdisciplinary symposium
Hosted by: Scottish Autism # Scotland; Hosted by: EdCMA # U of E
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Date and Time
22nd Mar 2018 10:00 - 22nd Mar 2018 15:00
Staff Room, 6th Floor Chrystal Macmillan Building, George Square, Edinburgh

Autism, Anthropology and Lived Experience: An interdisciplinary symposium 

Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA)in partnership with Scottish Autism 

Convenors: Roslyn Malcolm and Joe Long 

Thursday 22 March 2018, 10am-3pm 

Autism has been the focus of increasing public and scientific attention in recent years. While the majority of research has focused on biomarkers and cognition, or on trialling ‘treatments’ and ‘interventions’ an emergent body of research instead addresses the lived experience of autism in social context. This day-long symposium will facilitate dialogue between anthropologists with a range of specialisms and researchers working across the interdisciplinary field of autism studies. With a focus on the social and embodied worlds experienced by people on the autism spectrum, the event will explore what ethnographic and phenomenological research can contribute to autism studies. Anthropology’s focus on the ways in which social and cultural contexts inform day-to-day interactions and experiences, and the discipline’s immersive methodological approach have much to offer the field. Medical anthropology, in particular, has a history of critical engagement with scientific and medical paradigms and has very recently been employed in exploring the nexus of autistic experience and knowledge production around autism. Participants will consider the ways in which collaboration between scientific autism research and anthropological research might productively services for autistic people. We will also consider how autism research contributes to anthropological accounts of diverse sociality and different ways of being in the world. 

The day will consist of a series of presentations, followed by a round-table discussion in which scholars from a range of disciplines will contribute. The following questions will guide our discussions throughout the day: 

1) What can ethnographic and qualitative studies offer the wider field of autism research including considerations of: empathy and intersubjectivity; sensory, proprioceptive and perceptual experience; diagnosis and care; and diversity and stigma. 

2) How can embodied knowledge and lived experience be systematically engaged in understanding autism, and enhancing autism services? 

3) How can phenomenological studies of autism inform anthropological and sociological thinking about sociality, more-than-human worlds, and diverse ways of being in the world? 

4) In what ways can scientific and social researchers work usefully together to inform knowledge production; care practices and services; and global health programmes around autism? 

5) What directions might anthropological studies of autism take in future? 


Dr Joseph Long (Scottish Autism and EdCMA) and Roslyn Malcolm (EdCMA): “Anthropology in autism research: foundations, applications and future directions” 

Dr Damian Milton (University of Kent): “What is an aut-ethnography and what might one look like?” 

Dr Catriona Stewart (Scottish Autism and Scottish Womens’ Autism Network): “Illuminating the shaded: turning a phenomenological gaze towards intersectionalities in gender and autism stereotyping” 

Dr Stephen Kapp (University of Exeter): “Autistic advocacy in the Neurodiversity movement” 

Round-table participants 

Dr David Simmons (University of Glasgow, Psychology) 

Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson (University of Edinburgh, Patrick Wilde Centre) 

Professor Ian Harper (University of Edinburgh, Social Anthropology/EdCMA) 

Dr Stefan Ecks (University of Edinburgh, Social Anthropology/EdCMA) 

Charlene Tait (Scottish Autism, Centre for Practice Innovation) 

Further participants TBC 

To register for attendance please sign up here: 

For further information contact the seminar convenors: Roslyn Malcolm: Joe Long: 

Coffee and lunch will be provided. We aim to make our event as accessible as possible for participants with a range of requirements. Please contact the convenors if you would like to discuss any dietary requirements or specific accommodations that might help to support your attendance. A quiet room will be available on the same floor as the event during the day.

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