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Friday, April 7, 2017

Autism as Metaphor in International Relations

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss challenges facing autistic adults and children.  One is the misuse of the term autism, which in turn spreads misunderstanding of autistic people.

At the European Journal of International Relations, Stephen Michael Christian has an article titled "Autism in International Relations: A Critical Assessment of International Relations’ Autism Metaphors."  He argues that scholars of international relation use autism metaphor that "shape or reinforce understandings of autism that often oversimplify, overgeneralize, or otherwise negatively misrepresent autism and Autistic people." He identifies two patterns.
First, IR acholars do frequently stereotype autism; this article focuses especially on the autism-as-disease and autism-as-aloneness metaphors. Scholars have also used other problematic associations with autism, such as violence and perpetual immaturity. Regardless of what the stereotype is, Autistic people and autism experts alike have repeatedly asserted that these stereotypes are outdated, contested, and misleading, when not simply wrong.
Second, IR scholars use autism metaphors to disparage either foreign policies or support their IR theories. Scholars use this rhetoric for legitimizing their arguments, and such rhetoric succeeds when they connect ableist understandings of autism held by readers with some foreign policy or IR theory. Scholars will sometimes incorporate autism metaphors to improve their theories, while others use it to disparage a foreign policy or alternative theory. This disparagement implies a scholar’s desire to rectify such a foreign policy or theory, much like how doctors and research focus on autism to find a treatment or cure.