Abstract
Autistic difficulties with social interaction have primarily been understood as expressions of underlying impairment of the ability to ‘mindread.’ Although this understanding of autism and social interaction has raised controversy in the phenomenological community for decades, the phenomenological criticism remains largely on a philosophical level. This article helps fill this gap by discussing how phenomenology can contribute to empirical methodologies for studying social interaction in autism. By drawing on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and qualitative data from an ongoing study on social interaction in autism, I discuss how qualitative interviews and participant observation can yield phenomenologically salient data on social interaction. Both, I argue, enjoy their phenomenological promise through facilitating attention to the social-spatial-material fields in and through which social interactions and experiences arise. By developing phenomenologically sound approaches to studying social interaction, this article helps resolve the deficiency of knowledge concerning experiential dimensions of social interaction in autism.
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DOI 10.1163/15691624-12341389
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