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Autism as a Mode of Engagement

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Autism in Translation

Part of the book series: Culture, Mind, and Society ((CMAS))

Abstract

Autism, and the autistic processing style, is often conceptualized as a series of deficits: in theory of mind, in executive function, in central coherence. This chapter, instead, considers autistic theory of mind, executive function, and the creation of coherence as modes of engagement, characterized by a deep involvement with external systems of organization. I share cases of three young men on the autism spectrum, showing how their manifestation of the profile of symptoms associated with autism is contingent upon not only the configuration of their particular minds, but also upon the available cultural materials through which they seek and create a sense of coherence, order, safety, and joy. Autism is understood here as a form of permeability, of deep existential vulnerability, to the order of things around us: structured systems, elements in their robust relation, arrangements both deliberate and disavowed. In its maintenance of the fundamental structure of that which it integrates, the autistic mode of engagement renders particularly visible the inevitable traces of human creations within human being. Taking up Anthony Giddens’ notion of “manufactured risk”, I argue that understanding autism requires that we reckon with both the dangers and the pleasures of human work upon the world.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Fein .

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Fein, E. (2018). Autism as a Mode of Engagement. In: Fein, E., Rios, C. (eds) Autism in Translation. Culture, Mind, and Society. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-93293-4_6

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