April 3, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 13

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    Scholars, practitioners to review aspects of autism at conference

    Members of the Master of Arts in the Social Sciences Program have organized “Autism Through the Lens of the Social Sciences” as the 2008 Earl S. Johnson Conference, which will provide scholars, practitioners and advocates a chance to review and discuss various aspects of autism.

    The conference, named for the founder and longtime director of the MAPSS program, will be held Thursday, April 3 and Friday, April 4, in the third-floor conference room of Swift Hall, and will kick off at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 3.

    It is an outgrowth of a graduate seminar, the Anthropology of Dis/ability, taught by Morrie Fred, MAPSS Lecturer.

    “This conference aims to generate conversations about social science perspectives on the public and medical construction of autism, in relation to the challenges of treatment and service provision in the United States,” said John MacAloon, Academic Associate Dean in the Social Sciences Graduate Division and Professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division.

    “While recognizing the complexity of the topic, the conference will explore that critical collaborative space between researchers and practitioners today,” said MacAloon, who is Director of the MAPSS program.

    Richard Grinker, professor of anthropology at George Washington University and author of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, will begin the conference with the keynote address, titled “What in the World is Autism? How Culture Shaped an Illness.”

    On Friday, April 4, speakers will address various topics related to autism, including two Chicago researchers who will present talks on the subject. Peter J. Smith, Assistant Professor in Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, will present, “Who are Those Autism Doctors? And What Do They Actually Do?” Elizabeth Nickrenz, a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Human Development, will give a presentation titled “Strange Harbors, Magic Rivers and Contested Twilights: Role-Play, Culture and Transformation in an Asperger Summer Camp.”

    The conference is being held in collaboration with Easter Seals, and is free and open to the campus community.

    For more information, visit http://mapss.uchicago.edu/about_mapss/2008conference.shtml.