Much of western society is predicated on the idea that knowledge consists of a variety of objective truths. When we hear the word “disability” or “autism” we are guided to understand the word in a particular way. This unfortunately fails to capture the dynamic and highly contextual nature of human understanding. Neuronormativity, then, is an attempt to remove context from human neurological experience.
The creation of worlds
Knowledge is socially constructed. Each word we speak carries with it the effect of each interaction we have had with society. When I state that I am Disabled or Autistic, I inevitably will have a different understanding of what I mean than the meaning you will draw from it.
The space between the context of our understanding can be conceived of as the space between worlds. While our world may carry striking similarities, we can never objectively prove that they are the same. Rather than occupying a shared reality, we create contextual worlds that may cross boundaries with each other in places.
Neuronormativity and the elimination of context
When I consider normativity that is directed toward our embodiment and experience of the world, I see the death of context. Neuronormativity is that clandestine effort to label some contextual worlds as “wrong” and bolster some as “closer to the truth”. What is important here is that while neuronormativity claims an objective truth to one’s neurocognitive machinations, no human ever achieves the objective truth that it claims to hold.
Paradoxically, neuronormativity creates a world devoid of context, where one can never actually satisfy the truth of the matter. All humans fall below standard to some extent. Of course, some of us have more privilege than others, but importantly, we are guided to always strive to achieve an inaccessible truth. Regardless of our contextual world.
The contextual nature of Autistic experience
Perhaps one of the most pervasive and harmful applications of neuronormativity’s erasure is within the lives of Autistic people. Autistic experience is highly contextual, with an infinite number of ways that people can respond to and understand it. Neuronormativity seeks to erase any context within the Autistic experience that positions our existence as something other than a problematised one.
Each Autistic performance creates a contextual world of meaning. What we summarise as shared experience is actually the liminal spaces where one person’s contextual world crosses into another. In this sense, each Autistic person represents a point within a rhizomatic network, from which shared context can become community. Neuronormativity seeks to reset those liminal spaces, and enforce a generalised context. Neuronormativity is the death of our reality.
Neuronormativity is the death of community.