Identifying the autistic individual as living computer by making rhetorical "space" for Kenneth Burke in cognitive disability studies

Date

2009-12

Authors

Gregory, Rochelle Denisha

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Abstract

While Michel Foucault's research on power, knowledge, and discourse has proved vital for validating research topics and agendas in emerging disciplines such as Disability Studies, the emphasis on the first person perspective within disability narratives presents limitations for research on cognitive disabilities. Kenneth Burke's theory of identification offers a theoretical and rhetorical "space" from which non-disabled scholars can explore the discrimination, n1arginalization, and oppression experienced by the cognitively disabled in popular culture. Specifically, this study shows that the identification of the autistic-individuals-as-living-computer (i.e., savant or cyborg) reflects conten1porary anxieties regarding scientific and technological advancements and the potential for biological and chemical harm. The identification of the autistic individual as living computer reflects, likewise, contemporary strategies for understanding the complexity of autis1n spectrum disorders; however, such identifications further misconceptions that autistic individuals are incapable of recognizing and reciprocating empathy or affection and validate experimental, unfounded, and potentially harmful treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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Keywords

Rhetoric, Mass communications, Communication and the arts, Language, literature, and linguistics, Burke, Kenneth, Cognitive disability

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