Hi, I’m Robert Chapman (they/them). I’m a neurodivergent academic with an interest in emancipatory politics, social theory, disability, and mental health. I began this blog in 2016 as a place to explore and develop what I termed critical neurodiversity theory. The views expressed here are my personal views (or at least views I held at the time of writing), not the views of my employers or anyone I work with.
About my work
For those new to my work, here are few of my key contributions to neurodiversity theory that I’m either known for or proud of. Some of them are in blog posts and others are in academic articles or books:
- For a start: Proposing the term ‘neurodiversity theory’ specifically to describe a field of philosophical analysis. Obviously, there were many people I would call ‘neurodiversity theorists’ writing before this, but they usually weren’t recognised as such (often being reduced to ‘self-advocates’ rather than ground-breaking philosophical theorists). I associated this field most centrally with Nick Walker’s work, which regards the underlying conceptual basis of the neurodiversity movement. The term is now being used more often, which is nice.
- Developing the first Marxist-feminist metaphysics of autism as a serial collective. I don’t know if this will ever catch on in the way some of my other work has, but I think its one of the most important proposals I’ve made, totally different to existing approaches. I hope similar analyses are developed for other neurominorities.
- Developing the first history of the pathology paradigm as a scientific paradigm. I’ve only published a few short articles on this so far, but they’re based on in a book I’ve been working on for years now.
- Coining ‘neurotype dysphoria’. This basically described something I and some other people (both neurodivergent and neurotypical) have experienced. I’m still not completely sure about this term, but I know some people have found it useful already. Sometimes its good to have new concepts.
- Establishing how neurodiversity is different to, and often at odds with (also see here), critical psychiatry. Sometimes they are conflated or seen as allied, but in my view the overlap is superficial, and critical psychiatry – or at least the leading Szaszian variant – is quite firmly in the pathology paradigm.
- Proposing part of the philosophical basis for neurodiversity paradigm research through the ‘ecological model of functioning‘. I’m still not fully sure about this, but it is at least a first attempt at the kind of thing that will need to be developed for the neurodiversity to turn from an ideal to actual scientific paradigm.
- So far as I know, I was the first to argue that the diagnostic category of autism was a direct product of Nazi ideology. This was later supported when the archival evidence on Asperger was published, and Sheffer’s excellent book Asperger’s Children, which made a similar case but in more detail.
I am one of those people who thinks that scientific or theoretical work, rather than being wholly objective, will inevitably be an expression of one’s biography. Here, then, is a very brief note on my life to help anyone seeking to understand my work. I was born in London to white, working class parents (one the son of an Irish immigrant, the other British but grew up in India). I had an older brother. We generally lived in poverty and moved around a lot while I was growing up, in squats, council flats, and rented accommodation. I dropped out of school then became homeless when I was a teenager. I went into foster care when I was fifteen after finding it too cold to cope living outside during winter. I was fostered by a lovely family who basically unofficially adopted me. A bit later I got an autism diagnosis. As a young adult I managed to get various scholarships to go to university and become a philosopher. My brother, who was on the schizophrenia spectrum, died on Christmas day in 2017 duty to Tory austerity, and I still think about him a lot. Since getting my doctorate in 2018 I’ve worked at a few UK universities, mainly teaching and trying to help develop neurodiversity theory as a field. I am still precariously employed but trying to help get neurodiversity studies established as a field. I live with my partner and our cat.