David Platzer

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Johns Hopkins U.

Grant number

Gr. 9246

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Platzer, David L., Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD - To aid research on 'The Value of Autism: Labor and the Production of Autistic Adulthood,' supervised by Dr. Anand Pandian

Preliminary abstract: This study focuses on the creation of jobs for autistic adults, conceived of as a form of social welfare. Based in the metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area, it centers on concentric networks of parent advocates, social service providers, social enterprises, and corporate human resources initiatives. These networks have developed programs that seek to address the problem of an aging autistic populace — 85% to 93% of whom are currently unemployed — by incubating opportunities for sustainable labor. These jobs range from minimum-wage car washing positions for those on the lower end of the autism spectrum to software testing, hardware maintenance, and better compensated forms of technological work for those on the higher end. This research investigates how the promotion of waged labor, and its accordant emphasis on the production of economic value, intersects with the personal, communal, and ethical values which autistic individuals (and their families) themselves consider valuable or to which they themselves aspire. How might neoliberal imperatives for market solutions to the problems of social welfare, and the assertion of economic autonomy as the measure of mature adulthood, shape these programs and the ethical and social values they promote? Through interviews, participant observation, and discourse analysis this research will investigate the relationship between the neoliberal insistence on the market as the medium of welfare with (and against) the personal values, diverse aspirations, and neurological limits of autistic adults themselves. What, in short, is at stake for young autistic adults who are increasingly encouraged to organize their future, and understand their social ‘worth,’ though the production of economic value?