neurodissent, a neurodivergent theory circle

I am excited to announce a new project: neurodissent, an online community of neurodivergent scholars theorizing against neuronormativity.

I invite neurodivergent scholars to join the new neurodissent theory circle. I use the phrase “theory circle” as a nod to the work of critical education scholar Paulo Freire, who used “cultural circles” as a form of liberatory literacy education. Neurodissent theory circle participants will read a curated set of essays and write to other neurodivergent scholars about topics that concern our experiences and struggles. Together, we will read and craft neurodivergent theory that speaks back to neuronormativity.

The group will begin in May 2022, reading a curated set of open access scholarly essays and discussing them together. Our discussion will take place through our Google Groups listserv as well as through any other channels members choose.

Our opening topic will focus on the question “Who are WE to theorize neurodivergence and the neuronormative world?” I have chosen a set of open access scholarly essays intended to help us think about how we might, as neurodivergent scholars, elucidate aspects of the social or political world for ourselves and others. The set essays I have selected are listed here in the order we will discuss them:

  1. A Critical Realist Approach on Autism: Ontological and Epistemological Implications for Knowledge Production in Autism Research By Marianthi Kourthi
  2. Toward Epistemic Justice: A Critically Reflexive Examination of ‘Sanism’ and Implications for Knowledge Generation By Stephanie LeBlanc & Elizabeth Anne Kinsella
  3. Constituting “Lived Experience” Discourses in Mental Health: The Ethics of Racialized Identification/Representation and the Erasure of Intergeneration Colonial Violence by Ameil J. Joseph
  4. Binary Boys: Autism, Aspie Supremacy and Post/Humanist Normativity by Anna N. de Hooge

For each, I will pose a set of questions or prompts in our Google Group, inviting all members to respond to them in writing, or whatever other form they prefer to communicate through. (Members are invited and encouraged, not required or expected, to read and respond.)

In using the phrase “neurodivergent scholars”, I don’t wish to impose barriers related to type of neurological difference or of formal education / social class.

No fancy degrees are required for participation. I use the term “scholar” to point to people who deeply value learning and literacy. Experience with academic literacy will be advantageous because we will explore texts that are written for academic or scholarly audiences, but I hope that, through our collective efforts, we will make the texts and ideas in them accessible and useful for each other. One of those efforts will be our group’s use of the app Hypothesis, which will enable us to create a jointly annotated version of the texts we read.

In addition, I embrace an inclusive definition of “neurodivergent”, reflecting the intentions of the term’s originator neurodivergent activist and scholar Kassiane Asasumasu. Nick Walker, also a neurodivergent activist and scholar, has written a handy explanation of terms like “neurodiversity” and “neurodivergent“. She writes:

Neurodivergent is quite a broad term. Neurodivergence (the state of being neurodivergent) can be largely or entirely genetic and innate, or it can be largely or entirely produced by brain-altering experience, or some combination of the two. Autism and dyslexia are examples of innate forms of neurodivergence, while alterations in brain functioning caused by such things as trauma, long-term meditation practice, or heavy usage of psychedelic drugs are examples of forms of neurodivergence produced through experience.

Even though many of the group’s readings focus on particular diagnoses (especially autism), I hope that our discussions will still be relevant to neurodivergent people who do not see themselves in those labels. In addition, I affirm self-diagnosis as a valid way of knowing that one is neurodivergent.

If you’re excited to read some complex but rewarding scholarship and discuss it with other neurodivergent scholars, then I invite you to join the neurodissent theory circle. Following this link will take you to our Google Groups page, where you should click “Ask to join group”. (You can simply write that you are a neurodivergent scholar who wants to join).

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