Food, the Production of Normalcy, and the Archive of Autism


  • Jennifer Jensen Wallach University of North Texas



autism, food studies, disability studies, archives, normalcy, cure, behaviorism, fasting


In the 1970s, precursors to present-day autism therapies were often centered around food. Psychologists and other professionals forced children to fast, fed them mega-doses of vitamins, and/or forced them to cooperate with therapeutic protocols in order to earn the right to eat. These actions were performed in the name of “curing” their neurological condition and making them “normal.” Mistreatment of autistic people has often been couched under the misleading guise of “treatment,” yet there are numerous parallels between autistic subjugation and that of other minoritized groups. Examining this history brings food studies and disability studies into productive conversation, revealing the correlation between food control and social standing. The archive that documents this history includes clinical case studies, therapeutic and diagnostic manuals, and the life-writing of non-autistic observers. These materials document observed behavior without demonstrating curiosity about or awareness of autistic interiorities. Scholars have the obligation to read these sources creatively to piece together autistic histories, and the vast autism medical-industrial complex has the opportunity to use these insights to reevaluate current autism therapies, which often have the same ideological underpinnings of these earlier techniques and make autistic access to food conditional.




How to Cite

Wallach, J. J. (2024). Food, the Production of Normalcy, and the Archive of Autism. Disability Studies Quarterly, 43(2).



Neurodiversity, Past and Present