, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 323–345 | Cite as

‘Wired up differently’: Autism, adolescence and the politics of neurological identities

  • Francisco Ortega
  • Suparna Choudhury
Original Article


With the rapid rise in neuroscience research in the last two decades, neuroscientific claims have travelled far beyond the laboratory and increasingly, ‘facts’ about the brain have entered the popular imagination. As cognitive neuroscience steps up its focus on neurological distinctions between different ‘kinds of people’, researchers in the social sciences and humanities have begun to investigate the role of neurological vocabulary in the constitution of identities. In this article, we explore the terrain of ‘neurological identities’ through a comparative analysis of identity issues among individuals diagnosed with autism, and among adolescents – two categories of people who constitute important objects of study in current work in cognitive neuroscience and psychiatry. In particular, we explore the social conditions that render neuroscience a language palatable to autistic self-advocates and controversial to adolescents. Through these case studies, we demonstrate the heterogeneity of the role of the brain in projects of identity formation, and the many possible meanings conferred by the notion of ‘being wired up differently’.


identity cerebral subject neuroscience autism adolescence neurodiversity 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Ortega
    • 1
  • Suparna Choudhury
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Social Medicine, State University of Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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