A misfitted understanding: developing a future of critical autism research through feminist disability studies

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"Disability, like femaleness, is not a natural state of corporeal inferiority, inadequacy, excess, or a stroke of misfortune" (Garland-Thomson, 2001). The study of Disability as a field and activism has branched beyond the reductivist overlook of positivist and medicalised thought in the last two decades. While Critical Disability Studies has drawn on disability models and activism to develop its pivotal adaptation in thought and knowledge of disability (Goodley, 2013) other paradigms have further moulded disability studies. Feminist Disability Studies (FDS) draws challenges to the constructed materiality of bodies and disability as somehow 'less' through challenging stigmatised perceptions of disability, body and gender.

One area which has remained largely uninvolved or unaddressed through an FDS lens is the field of autism research. Understanding autism as more than a diagnosed condition has been at the core of recent developments in autism research. Sociological thought has shown a robust and meaningful engagement with autistic lives. Theoretical constructs such as the Double Empathy Problem (Milton, 2012) have constructed an opposition to certain diagnostic criteria such as impairments in communication. My own research seeks to expand the current knowledge base of autistic school experiences through engagement with autistic girl's early education reflections. In building the research engaging a Feminist lens has been vital to development of a more nuanced approach to understanding autistic lives. Looking forward, the paper will consider how Critical Autism research can benefit from more solid grounding and engagement with Feminist theory in conceptualising and comprehending the lived experiences of autistic individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021
EventBSA Annual Conference 2021: Remaking the Future - Online, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Apr 202115 Apr 2021


ConferenceBSA Annual Conference 2021: Remaking the Future
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • autism research
  • feminist studies
  • disability studies


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