Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder

By Chloe Silverman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Love as an Analytic Tool

Women’s work is of a particular kind—whether menial or requir-
ing the sophisticated skills involved in child care, it always involves
personal service. Perhaps to make the nature of this caring,
intimate, emotionally demanding labor clear, we should use the
ideologically loaded term “love.” For without love, without close
interpersonal relationships, human beings, and it would seem
especially small human beings, cannot survive
.1

Of course, love is never innocent, often disturbing, given to
betrayal, occasionally aggressive, and regularly not reciprocated
in the ways the lovers desire. Also love is relentlessly particular,
specific, contingent, historically various, and resistant to anyone
having the last word
.2

If You Think My Hands Are Full… You Should See My Heart!3

This is a book about love. It is a history of autism, one that pays particular attention to the importance of affect in biomedical research during the second half of the twentieth century and the first few years of the twenty-first. I explore the role of love as a social experience and technical discipline. I do this for several reasons. Passions are a key part of the production of knowledge and the identities of contemporary scientists and medical practitioners. Theories of affect, and love in particular, shape the discourses of developmental psychology, psychiatry, and, more recently, biology. Affect and its synonyms, including despair, anger, caring, and love, work as “good enough” analytic tools for interpreting contemporary biomedicine. Like

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