Autism, Anthropology and Lived Experience: An Interdisciplinary Symposium by Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology & Scottish Autism

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

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 on the seminar theme, followed by a round-table discussion in which scholars from a range of disciplines will participate and contributions will be welcome.


Dr Joe Long (Scottish Autism & EdCMA associate) & Roslyn Malcolm (University of Edinburgh, 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 Women’s 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

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 (listed below) 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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