Jennifer Sarrett is a 2013 recipient of the Emory Center for Ethics Neuroethics Travel Award. She is also a doctoral candidate at Emory University’s Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts working on her dissertation which compares parental and professional experiences of autism in Atlanta, GA and Kerala, India as well as the ethical issues that arise when engaging in international, autism-related work.
From June 26 - 29, 2013, the Society for Disability Studies (SDS) held their annual conference in Orlando, Florida. SDS is the primary scholarly association for the field of Disability Studies, which is an academic field of study exploring the meanings and implications of normativity, disability, and community. As with other identity-based fields of studies, including Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, and African-American Studies, the Society for Disability Studies thinks about difference and works to expose and eradicate stigma and inequality related to people who identify as disabled. This particular field of identity-based work is closely related to Bio- and Neuroethics, as differences in minds and bodies present medical and scientific concerns to physicians, researchers, and scholars.
At SDS this year, I presented a paper titled “The Ethics of Studying Autism Across Cultures,” which is based on my research fieldwork. My dissertation looks at how culture influences parental and professional experiences of autism in Atlanta, GA and Kerala, India with the aim of developing guidelines for future scholars, interventionists, or advocates embarking on international work on autism and related disabilities. Because of many of the ethical issues I came across in my studies and research, my work extends to thinking about autism within current models of human rights and critically examining contemporary and historical ways of talking about and treating people on the autism spectrum.