Thesis Proposal Introduction – Attempt 2

Okay, so I don’t know why I didn’t like yesterday’s proposal intro, but I just didn’t quite like it.  Here’s my second attempt at making a proposal based on a rewrite of the abstract.

I think one of the main things that I didn’t like about yesterday’s attempt was that it ends on a really depressing downnote.  So, here’s an attempt to change that.


Abstract

Yergeau and Heilker state that “every public discourse on autism is begging for rhetorical analysis.”  As the self-described “world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization,” Autism Speaks (AS) is a prime candidate for such a rhetorical analysis.  A preliminary study of AS reveals what they really advocate for: the eradication of autism.  Two questions arise from this finding: (1) how does AS  have the authority to pursue this objective, and (2) who does AS really advocate for?  

To answer these questions, we must trace AS back to its ideological roots.  Using Burke’s Terministic Screens, we can show that AS is the output of autism; autism is the output of Theory of Mind; Theory of Mind is the output of Otherness; and Otherness is the output of a different way of being in the world. Ableistic science, or the pathologization of the Other, is the terministic screen that determines the output in each of these cases and also answers question 1.

This answer combined with what AS’ objective is leads us to the following conclusion: ableistic science leads to ableistic advocacy (AS).  This leads to AS advocating for the parents of autistic children rather than autistic people themselves.  They do this by subjugating the autistic into silence which they then use as further warrant for their pursuit of the eradication of autism.

But autistic self-advocacy organizations are working to depathologize their Otherness by reclaiming what Heilker and Yergeau call “a different way of being in the world through language.” [249]


Proposal Intro

The subject of my thesis is that that ableistic science leads to ableistic advocacy.

Yergeau and Heilker state that “every public discourse on autism is begging for rhetorical analysis.”  As the self-described “world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization,” Autism Speaks is a prime candidate for such a rhetorical analysis.  A preliminary study of Autism Speaks reveals what they really advocate for: the eradication of autism.  By using Latour’s concept of the Black-Box combined with Burke’s Terministic Screens, I will trace Autism Speaks back to its ideological roots.  I will show that Autism Speaks is the output of Theory of Mind; Theory of Mind is the output of Autism; Autism is the output of Otherness; and Otherness is the output of a different way of being in the world. The terministic screen used to create the output is ableistic science, or the pathologization of the Other.

This leads us to the following conclusion: ableistic science leads to ableistic advocacy (AS).  This leads to Autism Speaks advocating for the parents of autistic children rather than autistic people themselves.  They do this by subjugating the autistic into silence which they then use as further warrant for their pursuit of the eradication of autism.  But autistic self-advocacy organizations are working to depathologize their Otherness by reclaiming and embracing what Heilker and Yergeau call “a different way of being in the world through language.”

Drawing from disability studies and the rhetorical perspectives on semiotics, terministic screens, and the rhetoric of science, my culminating project is built to answer two primary questions.  First, how does Autism Speaks have the authority to pursue the eradication of autism?  Second, who does Autism Speaks really advocate for?

Accordingly, in this proposal, I explain the initial motivation behind my research; present a methodology that unites 1) Latour’s Black-Box Theory and Burke’s Terministic Screens and 2) disability studies with rhetoric of science, and apply these new frameworks to the genesis of Autism Speaks and Theory of Mind research respectively; analyze findings from a preliminary study of the Autism Speaks website; provide a rationale and overview of the full study; and describe the larger societal implications and significance of this project.


I think this is better, but I still don’t quite like some of the things.  But I am definitely getting closer and closer to how I want it.  Hm…I’m gonna try again tomorrow.

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