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Ben Belek

Autism spectrum conditions represent a broad category of behavioural, cognitive and neurological atypicalities. The difficulties experienced by people on the autism spectrum with regards to their emotional awareness, regulation, expression and interpretation are often mentioned in literature – and regarded by autistic people themselves – as salient features of the condition. The primary aim of my research is to help deepen our understanding of these difficulties, in order to gain a subtler appreciation of what 'being autistic' actually means. An ethnographic focus on emotional experiences in autism promises to introduce a new, unique pathway toward a clearer understanding of a condition too often thought to be unintelligible. In this article, I argue that insofar as autistic people may experience difficulties in discerning, managing or communicating their emotions, these difficulties mainly stand to reflect and allude to their unique positions within a complex network of connections: social, cultural and neurological.

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Introduction

For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability

Patrick McKearney and Tyler Zoanni

accept the details of this diagnostic profile but invert its valuation, embracing autistic traits as instances of ‘neurodiversity’. Both sides in the controversy adhere to the consensus that it constitutes a profound form of difference at the level of