SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • autism;
  • stigma;
  • Foucault;
  • identity

Abstract

This paper analyses 12 parent interviews to investigate the stigmatisation of parents of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Drawing on poststructural accounts of the relationship between knowledge and subjectivity, the stigma concept is critically interrogated in order to address previous individualistic constructions of stigmatisation and to place stigma within the power dynamics of social control. The results of the study indicate that a child’s diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is critical for parents to resist stigmatisation. Parents experienced considerable enacted stigma, but successfully resisted felt stigma by deploying medical knowledge to articulate unspoiled subject positions. The institutionalisation of medical knowledge within the autism community was critical to this process. Resistance to enacted stigma was successful to the degree that medical constructions of deviance deployed by parents were accepted by others, notably those in power within institutions. It is concluded that poststructural accounts of subjectivity and social control provide a useful way of conceptualising stigmatisation. An acceptance of the painful nature of stigma as lived experience co-exists with an emphasis on the constantly negotiated nature of embodied subjectivity as a contingent social process to illustrate the conditions for active resistance to stigmatisation.