Sensorimotor research is currently challenging the dominant understanding of autism as a deficit in the cognitive ability to ‘mindread’. This marks an emerging shift in autism research from a focus on the structure and processes of the mind to a focus on autistic behavior as grounded in the body. Contemporary researchers in sensorimotor differences in autism call for a reconciliation between the scientific understanding of autism and the first-person experience of autistic individuals. I argue that fulfilling this ambition requires a phenomenological understanding of the body as it presents itself in ordinary experience, namely as the subject of experience rather than a physical object. On this basis, I investigate how the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty can be employed as a frame of understanding for bodily experience in autism. Through a phenomenological analysis of Tito Mukhopadhyay’s autobiographical work, How can I talk if my lips don’t move (2009), I illustrate the relevance and potential of phenomenological philosophy in autism research, arguing that this approach enables a deeper understanding of bodily and subjective experiences related to autism.
Bibliographical noteImportant note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: “This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11013-018-9590-y”. Embargo ends june 2019.
- embodied subjectivity