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Autism and the Question of the Human

Journal article
Authors Jenny Bergenmar
H. B. Rosqvist
A. S. Lonngren
Published in Literature and Medicine
Volume 33
Issue 1
Pages 202-221
ISSN 0278-9671
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Pages 202-221
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1353/lm.2015.0009
Keywords HIGH-FUNCTIONING CHILDREN, ASPERGER-SYNDROME, SPECTRUM DISORDER, EMOTION, FACES, IDENTIFICATION, EXPRESSION, ACCOUNTS, CONTACT, Literature
Subject categories Clinical Medicine, Specific Literatures

Abstract

The article explores how normative notions of emotions and interaction are active in constructions of the categories of “human” and “animal” in different discourses about autism: scientific and autobiographical. In the scientific discourse of autistic emotionality, a deficit perspective of autism is central. The general affective deficit discourse relies on normative discursive notions of “humanity” or “human emotionality.” Thus, neurotypicals are produced as real “humans” and neurotypical emotionality as “normal” human emotionality. This human normativity is challenged in the Swedish autobiographical texts by Gunilla Gerland (b. 1963), Iris Johansson (b. 1945) and Immanuel Brändemo (b. 1980). Along with American authors of autobiographies about autism, such as Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures (1995) and Dawn Prince-Hughes’ Songs of the Gorilla Nation (2004) they destabilize the categories of “human” and “animal” by identifying with nonhuman animals, describing themselves as such, or feeling disqualified as real humans.

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