Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 893–913 | Cite as

Toward a Phenomenological Account of Embodied Subjectivity in Autism

  • Sofie Boldsen
Original Paper


Sensorimotor research is currently challenging the dominant understanding of autism as a deficit in the cognitive ability to ‘mindread’. This marks an emerging shift in autism research from a focus on the structure and processes of the mind to a focus on autistic behavior as grounded in the body. Contemporary researchers in sensorimotor differences in autism call for a reconciliation between the scientific understanding of autism and the first-person experience of autistic individuals. I argue that fulfilling this ambition requires a phenomenological understanding of the body as it presents itself in ordinary experience, namely as the subject of experience rather than a physical object. On this basis, I investigate how the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty can be employed as a frame of understanding for bodily experience in autism. Through a phenomenological analysis of Tito Mukhopadhyay’s autobiographical work, How can I talk if my lips don’t move (2009), I illustrate the relevance and potential of phenomenological philosophy in autism research, arguing that this approach enables a deeper understanding of bodily and subjective experiences related to autism.


Autism Phenomenology Embodied subjectivity Movement Perception Self-experience 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRoskilde UniversityRoskildeDenmark

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