The League to Fight Neurelitism
Position Statement on Reification

For Immediate Release [first published on April 1, 2009]

The League to Fight Neurelitism, as a public sociology and an advocacy journalism project, actively promotes the application of United Nations values on human rights and social justice to all persons on the autism spectrum.

Simply stated, reification, a common academic term, points to the treatment of abstract categories as real, concrete particulars or essences. The view that these supposed essences can be perceived, comprehended, and discussed is called essentialism. Both concepts are frequently referenced by persons subscribing to one or more systems of metaphysics or speculative philosophy, such as Neoplatonism.

Tendencies toward reification and essentialism can be observed in some of the online discourse concerning the autism spectrum, particularly when the autistic and neurotypical (neurologically typical) constructs are juxtaposed and treated as essentially distinct. Significantly, perhaps, this approach resembles an earlier one taken by cultural feminists who have contended that women and men possess certain essential, innate differences.

Although an essentialistic approach to human neurology, as to gender, lacks nuance and sophistication, it might, nonetheless, be helpful in developing autistic class consciousness. Claims that autistics, especially Asperger's autistics, represent a prototype for an emerging new species, while superficially silly and easy to dismiss, can be similarly regarded.

Furthermore, anger at oppression, even if manifested in assertions of essentialism, is, in light of a considerable alienation, anomie, and angst which are experienced frequently by autistics, understandable, and it could, over the long run, encourage an activist praxis of self-advocacy. The League to Fight Neurelitism expresses the hope that, moving forwards, feelings of rage may be superseded by a mutual tolerance, which, with the development of third-wave feminism, appears to have taken hold in certain sectors of the women's movement.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
Founding Director,
The League to Fight Neurelitism