Bioethics Blogs

Autism Spectrum Disorders in Global, Local and Personal Perspective: a conference report by Elizabeth Fein

Last September, a group of scholars gathered at the State University of Rio de Janeiro for “Autism Spectrum Disorders in Global, Local and Personal Perspective: A Cross-Cultural Workshop”. The event was organized by Clarice Rios, a postdoctoral fellow at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and Elizabeth Fein, a professor of psychology at Duquesne University, and funded by the Lemelson/Society for Psychological Anthropology Conference Fund, made possible by a generous donation from the Robert Lemelson foundation. Aiming to destabilize the centrality of approaches from the global North in discussions of global mental health, the workshop sought to integrate North American psychological anthropology with the South American field of Collective Health, a field characterized by attention to the social production and reproduction of disease and health.

The workshop brought together a diverse group of scholars from northern and southern hemispheres. Participants varied in their main disciplinary affiliations: cultural and psychological anthropology; psychoanalytic psychiatry and phenomenology; philosophy; ethnomusicology; primatology; developmental psychology and linguistics; and disability studies, to name just a few. Some participants were on the autism spectrum, some were not; some had family members with autism spectrum conditions, some did not. But all of us shared a commitment to considering autism in social and relational context, across its experiential, intersubjective, and sociopolitical dimensions.

Here, we will briefly describe the many events and lively discussions that took place at this workshop. For those who want to find out more, video recordings of many of these events are also available on the Vimeo channel of the Society for Psychological Anthropology.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.