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Think Pieces

Vol. 7 No. 1: April issue

Autism as heredity, autism as heritage: The movement of autism back and forth through time

  • Ben Belek
October 7, 2019


Kinship relations constitute the grooves through which autism travels temporally. On the one hand, the biological components of the condition are understood to journey from one generation to the next through the passing down of genetic information. Yet on the other hand, autism is often employed retrospectively as an explanatory model and a marker for a unique personhood; this can occur in retelling to oneself and to others the story of one’s familial history, as well as, sometimes, the story of humanity as a whole. In this way, autistic people’s construction of autism as a cross-generational familial keystone offers them new opportunities for self-expression and self-creation. Through this temporal reframing of autism, the hereditability of the condition might instead be reconceptualised as heritage.