Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone

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Douglas Biklen
NYU Press, 2005 - Psychology - 304 pages
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Beginning in the mid nineteenth century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence--a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualities. Actors, writers, and visual artists then began pairing white children with African American adults and children, thus transferring the quality of innocence to a variety of racial-political projects—a dynamic that Robin Bernstein calls “racial innocence.” This phenomenon informed racial formation from the mid nineteenth century through the early twentieth. 
Racial Innocence takes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which Bernstein analyzes as “scriptive things” that invite or prompt historically-located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation.  Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions from blackface minstrelsy to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how “innocence” gradually became the exclusive province of white children—until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself.

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IntroductionA Discussion of Methods
1Framing AutismDouglas Biklen
2I An Introduction to Sue Rubin
3I An Introduction to Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay
4I An Introduction to Lucy Blackman
5I An Introduction to Larry Bissonnette
6I An Introduction to Alberto Frugone
7I Introduction to Richard Attfield
8I The World as Id Like It to BeJamie Burke
About the Authors

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About the author (2005)

Douglas Biklen is professor of cultural foundations of education and teaching and leadership, and coordinates the Inclusive Education Program at Syracuse University. He is a senior faculty member in the Center on Disability Studies, Law and Human Policy. He is the author of Access to Academics and Contested Words, Contested Science. He was Educational Advisor for the Academy-Award-winning HBO documentary Educating Peter and is coproducer of the CNN documentary Autism is a World.

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