Anthropological Research on Autism. Reflections from the Field

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), disability, fieldwork, ethnographic observation, communication, empathy, ethics, research responsibility


For a long time, people on the autistic spectrum were doomed to social marginalisation. They often spent their entire lives kept in homes or were sent to closed institutions where they were treated like passive objects of custodial care. Their developmental potential and creative possibilities were generally questioned. Since the 1950s, this has slowly been changing. Individuals with autistic syndrome and their relatives have obtained access to a variety of forms of aid. A network of specialist institutions supporting them through early diagnosis, therapy, care and education have been expanding as well. One such facility, located in Łódź, became for two years my research field. Stepping over the threshold of this institution I was not a novice since I had already met autistic people in the context of my private life. Still, I had never met such an abundant and diversified group of individuals on this spectrum (in terms of symptom level and age). During the course of my research, a number of issues needed to be addressed such as issues related to research method, my behaviour towards people with autism, some organisational matters as well as professional and ethical dilemmas, all of which will be written about in this article.


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Author Biography

Aleksandra Rzepkowska, Department of Social Pedagogy, Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Łódź



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How to Cite
Rzepkowska, A. (2019). Anthropological Research on Autism. Reflections from the Field. Ethnologia Polona, 40, 109-123. Retrieved from