CHHS research seminar: Dr Robert Chapman

We were joined by Dr Robert Chapman on 05/12/18, who gave a talk on ‘The Reality of Autism: Beyond the Biomedical Paradigm’.

Chapman noted that, typically, autism has been represented as a natural kind that can be usefully investigated by biomedical science. In recent years, however, problematic findings regarding the biological underpinnings of autism; historical research examining the shifting nature of the categorisation; and a lack of biomedical utility, has led some to suggest abandoning the concept of autism. Chapman’s interest here is the possibility that autism may remain a meaningful and helpful classification even if it lacks scientific validity and biomedical utility. He argued that we should understand autism in the context of a disabled minority that arises in a specific material and social context. The concept of autism thus has value for political and ethical, rather than biomedical, reasons. After arguing that accounts of autism as a natural kind are misguided, Chapman drew on feminist philosopher Iris Marion-Young’s distinction between groups and serial collectives in order to account for the reality of autism as a social category, best framed in terms of a social model of disability.
Contact: Robert Chapman  – kn18198@bristol.ac.uk

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