Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Contrasting Political Ontologies of Neurodiversity in High-Concussion-Risk Rural Cultures

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Contrasting Political Ontologies of Neurodiversity in High-Concussion-Risk Rural Cultures

Article excerpt

WHEN WORKING ON HEALTH PROMOTION EDUCATION in cross-cultural settings, one quickly comes upon philosophical tensions. Two of the most discussed tensions are cultural differences in epistemology (how peoples think things are known) and in ontology (what are real things, or the types of realness; e.g., Duran, Firehammer, & Gonzalez, 2008; Blaser, 2009). The ontological tensions in cross-cultural situations are further complicated when political considerations are introduced; when politics are introduced into the arena of what peoples think are real things, some authors refer to this as political ontology (e.g., Blaser, 2009).

In this paper we will examine two models of political ontology - Blaser (2009) and Rocha (2015) - each integrated with the concept of neurodiversity (Fenton & Krahn, 2007; Glannon, 2007a, 2007b) to produce an analysis of high-concussion-risk rural cultures. This will show that there are hidden, culturally imperial hazards in the medicalization of socially constructed norms of health (Illich, 2001), and that groups with members of differing, but culturally syntonic, neurologies possess equal-but-different functionality as healthy human people. We draw on lived experiences as members of such groups, and on years of personal conversations along these lines with rural peoples.

The Problem of Commodification of the Subject

Our general concerns surround cultural imperialism and rural ways of life. Therefore, we would like to make it clear that we use one body of literature (on risky play and concussion) as an example to help ground our general discussion; the topic of the example does not comprise the entire scope of the paper, which contains more general application. Whereas concussion and risky play are particular examples, our concern is the much larger question of cultural commodification of the body in relation to imperial norms; we are not just discussing head injuries and play, but the larger issue of power relations between government and the bodies it renders docile (see Foucault, 1961/2013). The social sciences have played a role in this domination by reinforcing ideas of the body as sensitive to pressure changes, primarily reactive, and in need of pampering and treating. To illustrate, causes of brain injury are often described in the literature using passive language such as motor-vehicle-related accidents and falls (e.g., Stallones, Gibbs-Long, Gabella, & Kakefuda, 2008). The extension of the basic thesis of Foucault's Madness and Civilization (1961/2013) from psychology to physiology is not hard to see in the global North, where play itself is seen as a risk and potential harm.

We acknowledge that whenever social scientists make normative and prescriptive claims about what it is to be human, they impose ways of being that have existential and political consequences. In other words, there is an existential effect when a subject is formed according to a particular sense of self prescribed from the outside, and this becomes political when the social order takes these prescriptions and turns them into norms and laws.

What does not change, however, is the ontological remnant, the unshakable things themselves that resist commodification and power (Rocha, 2015). Here we find a political ontology in the most basic sense: between the power-over existential and political regimes of truth and an ontological world that cannot be changed overnight. This is our primary philosophical interest in this paper, particularly as it relates to threats to rural cultures. Political ontology (e.g., Blaser, 2014) and neurodiversity (Glannon, 2007a, 2007b) are devices with which to pursue this argument, and we hope to do so in a more philosophically sound manner using folk phenomenology (Rocha, 2015) to politicize ontology.1

Risky Play

First, we will examine risky play among children, since it is a straightforward example of the conflicting interests between advocates for safety and advocates for courage. …

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