Absence and Epidemic

Autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Indigenous populations in Canada

  • Caleigh Estelle Inman Equity Studies Program University of Toronto


This paper contemplates the absence of Indigenous perspectives within autism discourse in Canada, despite increasing concern and surveillance over a growing autism ‘epidemic.’ I posit that the simultaneous production of a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) ‘epidemic’ among Indigenous populations contributes to this absence. Taking a genealogical approach to the emergence of FASD as a diagnostic framework, I situate the FASD ‘epidemic’ and subsequent prevention campaigns within a lineage of biopolitical strategies aimed at limiting the reproductive agency of Indigenous women. I argue that this phenomenon has two main consequences: first, the erasure of Indigenous autistics and a homogenization of Indigenous neurodiversity; and second, I claim that the association of FASD with Indigeneity converts the violent outcomes of settler colonialism into an embodied pathology, working to justify ongoing dispossession of land and resources from Indigenous people.

Author Biography

Caleigh Estelle Inman, Equity Studies Program University of Toronto

Equity Studies Program

University of Toronto