Constructing Autism Inside and Outside the Clinic: Exploring Relationships Between Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists' and Activists' Discourses
This research investigated the construction of autism in clinical and social terrains. Study one drew from Critical Discursive Psychology (CDP) to examine the language of psychoanalytic psychotherapists in constructing the phenomenon of autism spectrum disorders. This study relied on interview data with eight experienced psychoanalytic psychotherapists using a Free Associative Narrative Interview design. The investigation of the therapists’ discourses revealed four main interpretive repertoires that organised the rhetorical agenda’s of participants. The analytic notions of interpretive repertoires, ideological dilemmas and subject positions demonstrated how neo-liberal political frameworks influenced the therapists' negotiation of the meaning of autism. The implications of this discursive framework were subjected to a critical analysis revealing the limitations that they impose on the possible ways of being for autistic people. The second study used multimodal analysis to investigate an activist’s momentary identities on a “viral” YouTube video entitled: “In My Language” (see appendix 4). It focused on the verbal and non-verbal elements of the video material. The analytic attention predominantly settled on the interplay between the various semiotic resources that the activist utilised to negotiate a multiplicity of meanings. A wide range of identities produced by the participant’s social actions, exploring a political manifesto against the social oppression exerted on people with autism. The findings suggested that meaning-making inside this video was intricately related to the pathological language that saturates autistic lives from their beginning. This study also considered how multimodal designs of research could add to the investigations of disability and autism studies, pointing to the need to employ more autism lead research in the clinical and non-clinical sites. The findings from both studies highlighted two critical factors in autism as a discursive and multimodal phenomenon occupying a socio-cultural niche. A) Autism evolves through a conflictual and irreconcilable discursive framework. This conflict reflects profound issues of power that were taken as residing in a micro-fascism political dynamic. B) A need to break from the dichotomous deployment of autism in the current political setting is becoming apparent. The current clinical and social arrangement needs to change; a negotiation in which psychoanalytically and relationally inspired disability politics may become central. Part of this new “diplomacy” lies in engineering new discursive research designs that could offer the opportunity for the two realms to inter-relate in unforeseen and unpredictable ways.
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