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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • Theory of Mind;
  • mindblindness;
  • intentionality;
  • communication;
  • disability studies;
  • puzzle;
  • mentalism

Abstract

This paper problematizes contemporary cultural understandings of autism. We make use of the developmental psychology concepts of ‘Theory of Mind’ and ‘mindblindness’ to uncover the meaning of autism as expressed in these concepts. Our concern is that autism is depicted as a puzzle and that this depiction governs not only the way Western culture treats autism but also the way in which it governs everyday interactions with autistic people. Moreover, we show how the concepts of Theory of Mind and mindblindness require autism to be a puzzle in the first place. Rather than treat autism as a puzzle that must be solved, we treat autism as a teacher and thus as having something valuable to contribute toward an understanding of the inherent partiality and uncertainty of human communication and collective life.