I am delighted to have signed a contract with Taylor and Francis in January 2023 as Co-Editor for a new edited collection, A Handbook of Neurodiversity and Creative Research (Editors: R. Dhital and K.S. Tan, Routledge Taylor and Francis, circa Q1 2025), after being approached by the commissioning editors of Routledge. The name orders of the Editors is in alphabetical order. This textbook of essays, methods and reflections written both by and with neurodivergent creative researchers/practitioners in the creative arts (including theatre, craft and social art), sciences (from data science to psychology, chemistry, neuroscience and psychiatry), and humanities (including English), ranging from early career researchers to established professors and artists, across UK and US, and all of whom are members of the global Neurodiversity and Creative Research Network which was setup as a legacy of my award-winning #MagicCarpet. The book proposes neurodiversity as creative research framework and practice, and is a creative intervention into existing discourses (or lack thereof) on neurodiversity, or the hijacking of authentic creative, native perspectives within these discourses, as well as the often siloed, logocentric and non-accessible nature of the academy. This book is distinct from, but in (hyper)active conversation with two other books I am working on, all of which will be out circa 2024 onwards. The book is one of several book chapters and journal articles I have previously published with Routledge or Taylor Francis, across performance studies, art-sport studies and more.
All reviewers praise the book’s urgency as a ‘novel’ and ‘valuable’ intervention that can effect practical, subject and sectoral changes, including for academic publishing. With a ‘very high scope’ of impact’, the handbook is ‘distinctive’ and is ‘desperately needed’ in spotlighting creativity and intersectionality in neurodiversity. Like the Network, its ‘very nature of being critical and forward looking’ may ‘take some time to be accepted by mainstream’ and will become a ‘classic text’. The handbook will make HE ‘reflect and review on current academic culture and hence support planning for EDI in HEI’. Apart from being a key reading for a ‘wide number of research methods/disabilities studies/autism studies courses at undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels’, it will benefit ‘those working in student support/research development’, and ‘neurodivergent students and academics in HE institutions globally’. The book may even inspire ‘more ownership’ by tenured neurodivergent academics and will appeal to ‘disability organisations like the ‘Autism Cooperative Research Council’ in Australia’.
- Global bodies have been calling for creative, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to solve wicked challenges (AHRC 2019, UKRI 2020). At the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter reckonings of 2020, attention is increasingly paid to methods and perspectives foregrounding by/with/for marginalised/minoritised communities. Nonetheless, how neurodiversity entangles with creativity and research have remained under discussed and largely ‘invisible’ – much like the disability itself (Tan 2018). This is despite how emerging research is revealing the positive value of autism, ADHD and more, including divergent thinking and risk-taking (Baron-Cohen 2017, Lesch 2018), which are traits now understood as essential for effective leadership (e.g. Frost, Fiedler, and Anders this on 2016).
- Where neurodiversity is discussed, native neurodivergent voices have often not been meaningfully included, leaving their approaches being ventriloquised, colonised, commodified and/or white- washed by others with more academic and/or social capital, including social scientists (like Neurodiversity Studies: A New Critical Paradigm, 2020).
- Furthermore, fixated with a linear, logocentric approach to the written word, academia rewards outputs like monographs and journal articles, and places less value on creative and artistic outputs, as well as writing that deviate from the norm (Tan 2022).
- In addition, while memoirs and study guides targeting and/or by autistic and dyslexic people are common, they often fall into the movements’ traps of essentialism and exceptionalism, by prioritising the male, white, privileged voice, and autism (historically the most vocal of neurodiversities) and ignoring intersectionality, socio-economic circumstances and more.
9 CHAPTERS IN 3 ACTS, DRAWINGS & GLORIOUS FOREWORD AND AFTERWORD
- Created both by and with neurodivergent members of the Network, this edited collection introduces neurodiversity as a creative praxis, which will be performed in the form of be creative interventions like drawings, self-reflexive meta-text and more, throughout the book.
- The Handbook will be a valuable resource for researchers, students, scholars, and managers within HE and beyond. It will be the first of its kind, and will stimulate new thinking around research cultures and current work practices within HE and other sectors, and present urgent ways to catalyse change to support and realise the rich potential of a new generation of innovative researchers.
- The book will be a valuable resource for HE stakeholders worldwide.
- The Handbook features new, updated and previously unpublished materials spanning practice and research in and between health, theatre, performance, brain and mind sciences, visual arts, creative writing, literature, and more, by the ‘who’s who’ in:
- neurodiversity and creative research (including pioneer Professor of Performance Nicola Shaughnessy since her AHRC-funded research project Imagining Autism 2011- 2014),
- neurodiversity and queer studies (California-based Neuroqueer pioneer, Futurist, Aikido sensei and psychology Professor Nick Walker, whom I invited to write the Afterword, when she said hello after positively reviewing my proposal for another book, my monograph with World Scientific)
- scientific research (including global ADHD studies pioneer Professor of Developmental Psychology Edmund Sonuga-Barke, and Professor of PET and Radiochemistry Tony Gee, both of whom recently ‘come out’ as neurodivergent and are [re-]framing their research in neurodiversity in the book);
- art-science (including co-Editor Dr Ranjita Dhital, who convenes the MASc at University College London)
- creativity (including cult technologist who invented the world’s first web magazine Ivan Pope)
- and creative research (including Helen Kara, the author of textbooks on creative research and writing, who has agreed to write a foreword for the book).
- There are several other innovative chapters and exciting authors, as the Table of Contents in the gallery show.
ONGOING ADVOCACY TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSION
- After being approached by Routledge in November 2021, we spent thirteen months to carefully understand the processes of academic publishing. This is ongoing, as we seek to improve the terms and conditions and hidden rules. In other words, instead of abiding by exploitative and harmful norms, we have taken the trouble to use and make use of this opportunity to lobby for structural changes, and to educate this major publisher to inspire other publishers, so as to make the publishing process more transparent and accessible for people historically excluded from such processes.
- The negotiation process with Routledge is opening pathways of learnings for all parties involved, with lasting impacts for others to make this major publisher more inclusive. Through extensive discussions with senior staff, including with its US central office Taylor and Francis’ first ever first ever VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Naomi Barrett, we outlined the need for (infra)structures of support, learning and un-learning, and mechanisms for short- and longer- term culture change to make publishing more accessible for neurodivergent authors and a hitherto untapped market of neurodivergent readers.
- It was not difficult to present our work as a profitable endeavour, not just morally/ethically, but financially – after all, there is a host of neurodivergent authors, and the hitherto untapped market of neurodivergent readers out there for academic publishers to tap. What a missed opportunity, especially during such challenging times of reduced resources.
- We are delighted that the final contract now includes equitable payment for our neurodivergent authors to review the work of other authors who might need more help in writing. We will also embed a buddying and ‘reverse mentoring’ system, for the Editorial and US DEI teams joins our co-writing sessions and/or work closely with certain authors. These and other equitable mechanisms can have profound implications for all parties involved.
- These processes would have been even more challenging without the ardent and careful support of allies, former Senior Commissioning Editor Hannah Shakespeare (who tirelessly worked with us 11/2021- 10/2022), as well as my former Senior Research Assistant Dr Stefanie El Madawi (09/2021-05/2022), who helped to coordinate proceedings, and who has since clinched a new role herself as Commissioning Assistant at Emerald!
‘RADICAL’, ‘DISTINCTIVE’ & ‘URGENT’: AVE REVIEWS FROM THE THREE REVIEWERS
- All reviewers (hereafter signified as R1, R2 and R3) identify urgent need for such a book, strong market indicator + growing demand
- R1: Book will be in demand not just UK but ‘even America and Australia who are ahead of the UK’
- R1: ‘its very nature of being critical and forward looking, it may take some time to be accepted by mainstream (neurotypical). Autism researchers who work on a deficit basis, but I think it has the potential to become a classic text.
- R1: I imagine that chapters could be set as key reading on a wide number of research methods/disabilities studies/autism studies courses throughout the UK and beyond.
- R1: To my knowledge there isn’t a book like this available yet. Thoroughly considering neurodivergence in an intersectional way is desperately needed.
- To question of ‘ how distinct’: R1: ‘The entire book is distinctive’
- R3: ‘The market for this book will inarguably grow as the Neurodiversity Movement continues to expand and change culture, society, and research practices. This is a great time to publish a book like this’.
- R3: ‘strongly recommend’ and ‘recommend’ the book, as it ‘makes several useful and important contributions that should absolutely be made available, I think the audience who could benefit from the book as-is would be relatively narrow relative to the very high scope of its impact’
- R3: ‘given the dearth of Neurominority voices in research at present, the book is of high value to the field regardless’
- R1: ‘a-/b+ – this book is novel and will be valuable to readers.
- R1: ‘The chapter authors are an exciting mix of established researchers and doctoral researchers’.
- Our good practice has been lauded, too: R1: The editors note in their proposal milestones at which they will support authors.
- R1: Praises accessibility of book: ‘The way in which the book is structured allows for students and researchers alike to access the book, which will increase its marketability’ .
- All agree that the authors are ‘well-qualified to write this book’ + great representation: R3 ‘The list of authors overwhelmingly platforms neurominority scholars with both research and lived expertise, which is best practice in the field, and will ensure that the book is well received amongst its intended audiences.
- R3: ‘This is a handbook on Neurodiversity in research methods that is being released in the peak of the Neurodiversity Movement, which includes a strong push to challenge dominant research approaches and discourses in this field. The book can accomplish exactly that if calibrated correctly, and there will be a strong appetite for it.’
- R3: ‘Another strength is its potential to have a very wide readership, given Neurodiversity’s relevance across a wide variety of fields outlined by the authors and herein. Finally, the book does a wonderful job of prioritising intersectionally diverse perspectives from Neurominority researchers—which is very much the best practice in the field’
- R3 outlines the book’s USP, including its ‘capacity to:
(a) challenge problematic discourses and research methods on neurodiversity;
(b) identify how these discourses/methods create barriers for neurominority inclusion; and
(c) suggest non-traditional alternatives as future-focussed solutions to these problems
- R2: ‘I don’t think there are any books, at present, that address the theme of neurodiversity in creative academic practice’
- R2: ‘There are an increasing number of openly neurodivergent PhD, early career and junior academics and even more senior academics in creative fields who would be interested in the topic of neurodiversity in creative / interdisciplinary research practice. I know quite a few have also wanted to see more ‘ownership’ by people with existing/tenured positions. The subject of creativity has traditionally been neglected due to the stereotypes surrounding neurodiversity as autism and exceptional scientific /systematising skills. I, for one, would welcome an intervention in this field. The editors have a significant shared experience of research and teaching as neurodivergent academics. The theme of interdisciplinarity is also one that interests many and it is increasingly sought by grant organisations (as is diversity among research teams).’
- ‘Given that much of Neurodiversity-adjacent research (i.e. the fields of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Mental health, etc.) are often based in medical and/or psychological empirical science and positivist perspectives, there is absolutely a need for additional interdisciplinary and creative research in these fields. This book can make a significant and novel contribution to its field in providing this. Additionally, we are currently in the midst of a crucial and bourgeoning era of the Neurodiversity Movement. As a result, the field of Neurodiversity Studies (as opposed to traditional Medical Model studies on Neurominorities; or Disability Studies as a distinct field) is still nascent but rapidly emerging. There is therefore a strong appetite for research on neurodiversity authored by Neurominority groups (as this book is), and this will continue to grow in the future.’
- On ‘elements that make this volume a unique or essential resource’, R2 highlights chapters by ‘Alyssa Hillary, Emma McDowell, and Drs Stefanie El Madawi and Kai Syng Tan’.
- All agree gaps, demand, HEI and professional sectors, plus growing demand: R1: ‘To date there is not a book on Autism and research methods. Critical autism studies, which this book is aligned with, is in its infancy and gaining traction. This book would be of interest to Autism researchers and researchers focused on other types of neurodivergence.
- R2: ‘the principal intended audience would seem to be neurodivergent students and academics in HE institutions globally’
- R1: ‘the book would primarily appeal to academic audiences, including chapters being set as key reading on undergraduate and taught masters degrees in Autism/neurodiversity/education/psychology, and read in full by students doing a dissertation on autism/neurodiversity at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level. I think some Autism researchers will buy the book and many others will recommend that a copy is purchased for their university library. The chapters highlight the range of research designed and conducted by neurodivergent scholars and practitioners. The book would help others to reflect and review on current academic culture and hence support planning for EDI in HEI
- R2: ‘key target area is those working in student support/research development’.
- R1: ‘There are taught postgraduate courses in Autism many UK universities, and neurodivergence will be taught on a number of psychology/education courses’ ‘masters in autism might assign it as a key text for their research methods module’.
- R1: ‘Chapter 8 would be particularly useful for Autistic PhD students’; ‘just today I met with a PhD student who is struggling to align epistemology/ontology with her neurodivergence’.
- R1: This book would be useful for the ‘many organisations throughout the UK and beyond who claim to provide services for Autistic people, when often these services have been designed without Autistic people’s input’ + ‘Through it’s use on reading lists on Autism studies courses, it may spread to these sorts of organisations’ à CF Mohammed’s example as impact case studies
- R1: market is ‘Definitely growing’, with ‘Autism studies is becoming far more emancipatory in nature, and creative and participatory research practices are associated with emancipatory research’
- R3: ‘This book has potentially very broad appeal and could offer recommended readings in fields related to Disability, Neurodiversity, Interesctionality, and other relevant areas of social sciences.
- R3: ‘this book could also be very useful to Neurominority students at the postgraduate level (who account for roughly 1/5th of the general population)
- This book in conversation with these other books hosted in different disciplinary frameworks, eg forthcoming ‘Handbook of Critical Autism Studies (forthcoming Dec 2022) health and social care editors. Routledge.