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Autistic expertise: a critical reflection on the production of knowledge in autism studies

Milton, Damian (2014) Autistic expertise: a critical reflection on the production of knowledge in autism studies. Autism, 18 (7). pp. 794-802. ISSN 1362-3613. E-ISSN 1461-7005. (doi:10.1177/1362361314525281) (KAR id:62633)


The field of autism studies is a highly disputed territory within which competing contradictory discourses abound. In this field, it is the voices and claims of autistic people regarding their own expertise in knowledge production concerning autism that is most recent in the debate, and traditionally the least attended to. In this article, I utilise the theories of Harry Collins and colleagues in order to reflect upon and conceptualise the various claims to knowledge production and expertise within the field of autism studies, from the perspective of an author who has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. The notion that autistic people lack sociality is problematised, with the suggestion that autistic people are not well described by notions such as the ‘social brain’, or as possessing ‘zero degrees of cognitive empathy’. I then argue, however, that there is a qualitative difference in autistic sociality, and question to what extent such differences are of a biological or cultural nature, and to what extent interactional expertise can be gained by both parties in interactions between autistic and non-autistic people. In conclusion, I argue that autistic people have often become distrustful of researchers and their aims, and are frequently frozen out of the processes of knowledge production. Such a context results in a negative feedback spiral with further damage to the growth of interactional expertise between researchers and autistic people, and a breakdown in trust and communication leading to an increase in tension between stakeholder groups. The involvement of autistic scholars in research and improvements in participatory methods can thus be seen as a requirement, if social research in the field of autism is to claim ethical and epistemological integrity.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1362361314525281
Uncontrolled keywords: autism, expertise, knowledge production, somatic affordance, tacit knowledge
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC553.A88 Autism. Asperger's syndrome
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Depositing User: Damian Milton
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2017 04:59 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 01:53 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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