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The Globalisation of Autism: Historical, Sociological, and Anthropological Reflections

Thursday 20th April, 2017

and 21 April 2017, Graduate Centre, QMUL, Mile End Campus

Registration is now open

The autism diagnosis has become an important category of global health; capable of attracting large amounts of funding, shaping disability rights legislation, and impacting education, health and welfare policies internationally. This symposium will bring together scholars from across the world to reflect on how and why the autism category has achieved such significance in shaping international healthcare, research, and policy interventions, since the middle decades of the twentieth century. It will consider how and why autism became a global category, and what the implications of this are for understanding autism, research networks, and health policy in the future. The symposium will lead to a groundbreaking edited collection on the globalisation of autism for a wide international readership.

The symposium will address questions such as:

  • How has the autism diagnosis been employed in different national contexts to ensure education, healthcare and disability rights?
  • How have facts about autism travelled, and what impact has travel had on these facts?
  • How has the neurodiversity movement arisen in response to the growth of autism diagnoses, and what opportunities and challenges has this movement created internationally?
  • How has the autism diagnosis changed ideas about children’s typical emotional development in different national or international contexts?
  • What role have the neurosciences played in establishing international models of autism?
  • How have the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) influenced legal, political, medical and research approaches to autism internationally?
  • What has been the role of caregivers and other stakeholders in challenging models of autism developed in the scientific literature both nationally and internationally?

The symposium will consider the political dimension of the autism diagnosis, in particular its role in establishing education, health and welfare rights internationally, and its entry into international human rights discourse.  It will also consider its role in generating new forms of knowledge and research programmes internationally. It aims to encourage dialogue across countries in order to generate new perspectives on how the autism diagnosis has been integrated into different cultural contexts, and the impact that this has had on models of psychological development and individual identity.

Registration is now open on the QMUL E-shop and costs £30.


Thursday 20th April

All sessions on Thursday are in Graduate Centre: GC 201 unless otherwise stated.

9-9:30am Arrivals and coffee

9:30-9:45 Welcome and Introduction – Dr Bonnie Evans

9:45-11:05 Anthropology and the Perception of Autism

Chair: Professor Richard Ashcroft (Queen Mary)

Dr Joseph Long (University of Aberdeen/Scottish Autism), ‘Invisible relations and shifting paradigms in UK autism services: Anthropological reflections on social care contexts’

Tyler Zoanni (New York University), ‘Ad-hoc Autism: A diagnosis but not a condition in Uganda’

Dr Mathias Winter (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon), ‘Is France late on autism? Clinical and anthropological stakes of a local resistance to the globalisation of mental health’

11:05-11.25 Coffee Break

11:25-12:45 Neuroscience, Neurodiversity and the Concept of Autism

Chair: Dr Mark Honigsbaum (QMUL)

Dr Des Fitzgerald (Cardiff University), ‘ “There’s this thing we recognise when we see it, and it’s this thing called autism” – uncertainty, ambiguity, and the affective labour of autism neuroscience’

Dr Delphine Jacobs (University of Leuven), ‘The meaning of the concept of autism in parenthood and in the clinic. An investigation in two Belgian diagnostic centres’

Dr Lindsay O’Dell (The Open University, UK),‘ “Neurodiversity and epistemic communities: how the concept has travelled across cultural contexts’

12.45-1.45:  Lunch Arts 2: Foyer

Including book launch for Bonnie Evans’ The Metamorphosis of Autism with Professor Thomas Dixon

1.45-3.05 History, Disability, and Individual Rights

Chair: Dr Rhodri Hayward

Dr Bonnie Evans (Queen Mary),  ‘Autism, Britain, and the global health movement’

Dr Monika Baár (Leiden University), ‘The position of autism within the disability rights movement: Historical approaches’

Michal Geisler (Charles University, Prague),‘How was the concept of autism imported in the Czech Republic?’

3.05-4.40 Care, Gender, and Changing Global Autisms

Chair: Dr Ayesha Nathoo

Dr Marga Vicedo (University of Toronto), ‘A mother’s Siege: Love and knowledge in understanding autism in the USA’

Dr Leedy Hoque (Acceptance and Understanding Autism, Bangladesh) ‘Autism: A caregiver’s perspective’

Dr Sharon Elley (University of Leeds), ‘ “I am the reasonable adjustments”: autistic women, late diagnosis and workplace challenges’

Dr Catriona Stewart (Scottish Autism) ‘From cygnet to swan: changing outlooks for autistic girls and women’

4.40-4:55 Coffee Break

4:55-6:15 Participation and Engagement in Comparative and International Contexts

Chair: Professor Stuart Murray (University of Leeds)

Dr Damien Milton and Dr Rebecca Wood (University of Birmingham) ‘Beyond tokenism: Autistic participation in a transnational community of practice’

Dr Gregory Hollin (University of Leeds),‘Advocacy in the UK: Psychologists’ reflections on engagement’

Dr Kristien Hens (University of Antwerp), ‘Beyond the diagnosis. A phenomenological study’

6:15-6:30 Break

6:30-7:45 Public Lecture: Steve Silberman (Author of ‘Neurotribes’) “Great Minds Don’t Always Think Alike”, Arts 2 Lecture Theatre

7:45-9pm Drinks Reception (Arts Two Foyer)

Friday 21st April

9:15-9:30 Arrivals

9.30-10:50 International Networks and National Responses Graduate Centre: GC 601

Chair: Professor Richard Ashcroft (Queen Mary)

Professor Jonathyne Briggs (Indiana University Northwest), ‘The response to the international influence in autism treatment in late twentieth century France’

Dr Thomas Jammet and Dr Audrey Linder (University of Health Science/University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland), ‘Expertise in tension: “Old” and “new” professionals in French speaking Switzerland’

Lai Pin Yu (National Yang Ming University, Taiwan),‘Autism history in Taiwan 1970-1990’

10.50-11.10: Coffee Break [Graduate Centre]

11.10-12.30  Globalisation and Local Challenges: Focus on Africa Graduate Centre: GC 601

Chair: Professor Megan Vaughan (UCL)

Dr Amanda Martinage (Iona College, New York), ‘Reflections on the delivery of autism awareness and education trainings in Tanzania’

Dr Ilona Roth (Open University, UK), ‘Challenges and agents for change in the globalisation of autism: a case study of Ethiopia’

Irene Abimbola Adio (Oluyole Cheshire Home, Nigeria), ‘Challenges of raising a child with autism in Africa’

12.30-1.30 Lunch Arts 2: Foyer

Including display of artwork by Aadil Hoque



Graduate Centre: GC 601

Science, Technology, Cinema, and Creativity

Chair: TBC

Dr Kathleen Richardson (De Montfort University), ‘The robot intermediary? An anthropology of attachment and robots for children with autism’

Leni Van Goidsenhoven (University of Leuven), ‘Imaging autism: emerging knowledge in creative workshops for people on the spectrum in Belgium’

Dr Steven Eastwood (Queen Mary), ‘Cinemautism’


Graduate Centre: GC 603

Globalisation, Identity, and Treatment

Chair: TBC

Steven Kapp (University of Exeter), ‘Autism diagnosis across the globe: DSM-5 as a Focal Point’

Nabila Puspakesuma (King’s College, London), ‘Autism in Indonesia’

Vered Seidmann (Nanyang University, Singapore), ‘Agency, identity and the self –autistic identity construction in the blogosphere’

Patrick Kirkham (Independent Scholar, MPhil Cambridge University), ‘Applied Behaviour Analysis – a global ‘Gold Standard’ of autism treatment?’

2:50-3:10: Coffee Break

3:10-4:40pm Autism: New Global Challenges Graduate Centre: GC 601

Chair: Dr Ginny Russell (Exeter)

Professor Francisco Ortega (Rio de Janeiro State University), ‘The biopolitics of autism in Brazil’

Professor Ilina Singh (University of Oxford), ‘Globalisation of autism genomics research: Promises and perils’

Professor Bhismadev Chakrabarti (University of Reading), ‘A neuroscientist studies autism in India: Challenges and considerations’

4:40-5:30 Autism: New Global Challenges: Roundtable and Discussion Graduate Suite: GC 601

Graduate Centre is building 18 on the campus map. Mile End campus is easily accessible on the Central, Hammersmith&City and District lines.