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    Neuroqueer(ing) Noise: A/autisms, affect and more-than-sonic pedagogies in an integrated early childhood classroom

    Shannon, David Ben (2021) Neuroqueer(ing) Noise: A/autisms, affect and more-than-sonic pedagogies in an integrated early childhood classroom. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    In this thesis, I experiment with affect theories to think about neurodiversity, music composition, and early childhood pedagogy: this thesis sits at the intersection of social practice art and empirical social science research to craft new techniques for researchingwith sound-based methods and A/autistic practices. Drawing from critical disability studies, including crip and neuroqueer theories, and ‘post’ philosophies, I explore how neurodivergence comes to be formulated in the early childhood classroom at the intersection of racialising, abling/disabling, and Anglo-centric assemblages, challenging biocentric notions of A/autisms as residing ‘in’ a bounded body(mind) and the A/autist(ic) as a cohesive ‘type’ of person. At the same time, I keep hold of the valuable political work of A/autistic identity. I illustrate the generative friction between these perspectives with my stylised writing of A/autisms. In this thesis, I experiment with sound-based research and practice, through the process of music composition, audio recordings, and the sonified outputs of electrodermal activity devices (EDA): I explore the ethical and methodological challenges of researching with EDA in the classroom. This thesis offers two conceptual contributions for researching in early childhood settings. The first contribution is music composition research-creation, which is an artistic method for conducting sound-based research. The second contribution is A/autisms, which is an organising concept for doing critical disability research in education by keeping hold of the generative friction between disability identity, the material reality of disability, and the messiness of the label ‘autism’. I suggest that the concept A/autisms has implications not just for research in the field of critical disability studies in education, or in early childhood education, but also more broadly in how researchers orient towards the human subject in contemporary social science scholarship that draws from ‘post’ philosophies. Thus, I suggest A/autisms as method(ology). Rather than seek solely to improve educational provision for neurodivergent young people—although I intend to do that too—I hint at the ways that divergence is formulated moment-by-moment in the pedagogical encounter and how (infrequently, momentarily) divergence can be defamiliarised. In these ways, these new concepts emphasise the relationality of the (racialised, disabled) child’s body(mind) at the same time as keeping hold of the need for a dis-identitarian politics of disability. I frame this politics using neuroqueer theory. This thesis is animated by a 14-month in-school music composition researchcreation study called Neuroqueer(ing) Noise, which was a series of projects with a class of Year 1 (later Year 2) children. The study explores the instability of ‘neurotypicality’ at the intersection of racializing and abling/disabling processes. This study also experiments with and problematises electrodermal activity as method. I also think with my ongoing music composition research-creation study Oblique Curiosities.

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