Ninth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2014 July 31 - August 03

Body, Brain and
Personal Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Directors: Antonio M. Battro, Kurt W. Fischer and Fernando Vidal
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Francisco Ortega
Institute of Social Medicine, State University of Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL

From cerebral disorder to neurological difference: cerebralizing autistic personhood within the neurodiversity movement
This presentation explores an issue of significant public and policy interest on the tensions around how the brain is mobilized in the field of autism. Appeals to cerebral explanations in autistic communities must be understood in the context of the penetration of neuroscientific claims in different domains of life. Whether it is identifying the “biochemical pathways” that lead to autism or exploring the brain tissue of autistic individuals, parents of autistic children have joined forces with researchers to carve out a distinctive space to press their claims. By contrast, activists associated with the anti-cure or neurodiversity movement mobilize the brain in the claim of a depathologized identity.
The presentation addresses the emergence of autistic cultures and various issues concerning autistic identities. It shows how identity issues are frequently linked to a ‘neurological self-awareness’ and a rejection of psychological interpretations. It argues that the preference for cerebral explanations must be understood within the context of the diffusion of neuroscientific claims beyond the laboratory and their penetration in different domains of life in contemporary biomedicalized societies. Within this framework, neuroscientific theories, practices, technologies and therapies are influencing the ways we think about ourselves and relate to others, favoring forms of neurological or cerebral subjectivation. The presentation shows how neuroscientific claims are taken up in the formation of identities, as well as social and community networks.