What’s in a Name? Asperger’s Syndrome in the Formation of Otherness 

Andrea C. Valente, PhD

York University

E-mail: valentac@yorku.ca

Abstract: In this contribution I revise the changes that have been put in place for phasing out Asperger’s syndrome based on the DSM-5 and question its implication to individuals with Asperger’s in terms of their disability identity and positionality as the Other in autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, recent backlash against the eponym of Asperger’s syndrome have struck the autistic/Asperger community affecting once again their self-concept and sense of belonging. In view of these two instances in the Asperger community, I argue that fluctuations in the disability identity have become a matter of rhetoric of naming and of a repositioning of Otherness as a result of complex relations and contexts that involve clinical medicine and history. Hence, I aim to show that Asperger’s disorder has become a contested diagnosis of Otherness in autism studies by analysing extracts from Temple Grandin’s published autobiography Thinking in picture and from comments posted by viewers of a YouTube Channel, “The Aspies World”, in which a video reveals Hans Asperger’s involvements with the Third Reich during the annexation of Austria.

Keywords: Hans Asperger; DSM-5; disability identity; Otherness; Temple Grandin.

Rhetoric and Communications Journal, issue 50, January 2022

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