Autism in International Relations: A critical assessment of International Relations’ autism metaphors

Stephen Michael Christian
  • European Journal of International Relations, March 2017, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1354066117698030

Autism in International Relations

What is it about?

In this article, I introduce scholars to how IR scholarship is connected to "ableism" through a critical assessment of how IR scholars have used autism metaphors. First, I introduce readers to some tenets in disability studies regarding ableism, followed with a summary of negative and misleading cultural stereotypes of Autistic people. With these stereotypes in mind, I challenge how autism metaphors throughout the discipline. I conclude the article with reflections on the importance of a Disability IR studies.

Why is it important?

Not only does this publication contribute to an incipient Disability IR studies through discussing how IR scholarship upholds an ableist understanding of the world, it challenges the dominant IR consensus of accepting widely used, yet often overlooked, autism metaphors. Both mainstream and critical IR scholars have used these ideologically biased metaphors that degrade and obscure Autistic persons' existences and lived experiences, thus contributing to ableist discourses that oppress Autistic and other Disabled persons.


Stephen Christian

I wrote this paper with two goals in mind. First, I wanted to write an article that introduced IR scholars to ableism and disability studies in general. I recognized a conspicuous lack of IR literature engaging disability studies, even though it has been interacting with feminist, race, postcolonial, Marxian, and other critical and cultural studies. Second, I wanted to introduce IR scholars to critical perspectives on autism. I've been wanting to write a publication like this since before I entered my PhD program. I had come across autism metaphors in the IR before as an undergraduate, but I never recognized just how common IR scholars used them until I started this project.

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