'A smaller mask': Freedom and constraint in autistic space

A Colloquium with Dr. Ben Belek
Activity Date: 
Monday, Nov 6, 2017

In August 2014, as in every summer, approximately a hundred guests gathered in Ditchingham – a small village in Norfolk, East Anglia – for four days of lectures, workshops, and leisure activities. Autscape is a conference on autism, but it is made exceptional by the fact that not only its participants, but also its organizers, all identify as being on the autism spectrum. It is in light of this that the space in which the conference was held – the physical space as well as the social – was designed to become an altogether 'autistic space'; namely, a place where participants could finally remove their 'neurotypical masks', as many of them put it, and finally be 'themselves'. In this lecture I analyse the characteristics of such an 'autistic space'. I further ask what it might mean to be 'yourself' in the context of autism, and what is the nature of this mask that participants could supposedly remove upon their arrival.