Accepted paper:

Unilinear paradigms in anthropology and autism research: the limits of intervention models in social care contexts


Joseph Long (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Much autism research follows a linear narrative from problem/deficit through ‘intervention’ to outcome. In evaluating experience of social care I propose a kairological rather than chronological temporality to illuminate the complex dynamics of autism services that support rather than ‘intervene’.

Paper long abstract:

Much autism research is focused on the evaluation of educational, clinical and psychological 'interventions'. These evaluations seek defined and measurable results according to a linear process that moves from 'problem/deficit,' through 'intervention' to 'outcome.' Yet implicitly medical models of Evidence-Based Practice are not always suited to analyzing and understanding the more holistic support offered in social care services. Social care practitioners are not in the business of 'intervening', but supporting individuals with autism to achieve a desired quality of life, often through relationships developed over long periods of time. Here I highlight the potential of ethnography as a departure from linear, chronological temporality - of 'outcomes' achieved in the life of an intervention − to a kairological paradigm which admits of the temporal boundedness of research but takes a particular moment or period to illuminate the complex social dynamics and entanglements that inform experiences of social care. Where anthropological discourse increasingly talks of theoretical 'turns' and 'interventions', I likewise suggest we should be wary of unilinear narratives that undermine the theoretical diversity of anthropology. If we instead acknowledge the multiple threads and contributions offered by different scholars we can better envisage ways in which anthropology might contribute to interdisciplinary fields such as autism research.

panel P44
Ethnography and evaluation: temporalities of complex systems and methodological complexity