Autistic Sociality



Abstract This article is based on our decade-long linguistic anthropological research on children with autism to introduce the notion of “autistic sociality” and to discuss its implications for an anthropological understanding of sociality. We define human sociality as consisting of a range of possibilities for social coordination with others that is influenced by the dynamics of both individuals and social groups. We argue that autistic sociality is one of these possible coordinations. Building our argument on ethnographic research that documents how sociality of children with autism varies across different situational conditions, we outline a “domain model” of sociality in which domains of orderly social coordination flourish when certain situational conditions are observed. Reaching toward an account that comprehends both social limitations and competencies that come together to compose autistic sociality, our analysis depicts autistic sociality not as an oxymoron but, rather, as a reality that reveals foundational properties of sociality along with the sociocultural ecologies that demonstrably promote or impede its development. In conclusion, we synthesize the “domain model” of sociality to present an “algorithm for autistic sociality” that enhances the social engagement of children with this disorder. [autism, sociality, conversation, theory of mind, baby talk]