Melissa Ariel Cascio
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationCentral Michigan U.
Grant numberGr. 10261
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleCascio, Melissa (Central Michigan U. "Meanings of autism and work: Autistic and non-autistic people navigating shared spaces and conflicting conceptualizations"
Cultural anthropology richly explores how people negotiate meanings of identity, difference, and social roles. This study will investigate how people in mid-Michigan, United States, use everyday understandings of autism, medicalized and non-medicalized, to create and navigate the important spaces of work. It will also investigate meanings of work, including changing ideas about work in the COVID-19 pandemic. I will use semi-structured interviews and photo-elicitation with autistic people and autism employment professionals, person-centered shadowing with autistic people, and interviews with other people present where they work. Through mixed inductive and deductive thematic analysis of meanings of autism and work, my project will result in a theory of the relationships between ideas about autism and work that interrogates neoliberal assumptions about both and avoids deficit narratives of autism. This theory will be of interest to scholars in the anthropology of autism, the anthropology of medical discourse, and the anthropology of adolescence/adulthood that are concerned with impact of neoliberal ideas about self, medicine, and work as a marker of full adulthood. It will expand upon existing anthropological theory to better account for the human variation represented by autism and imagining more inclusive futures that better account for any type of human variation.