Breaking the Frames of Neurotypical Recognition: Non-normative Subjectivity in Queer Speculative Fiction

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk


Over 20 years since it began, the recognition debate rages on in postcolonial thought, queer theory, and trans theory. The question of how we might act to resist or refuse the violent interpellations of liberal personhood seems more urgent today than ever. In this paper, I suggest that a way to think this resistance is through consideration of the neurotypicality of hegemonic subject formation.

Following Erin Manning and Fred Moten, I see neurotypicality as a matrix of regulatory norms that work to govern subjectivity through the construction of a purportedly neutral ground of rationality and propriety. As neurotypicality naturalises and enforces many of the political and ontological presuppositions of colonial cisheteropatriarchy – by, for example, pathologising dependence and relationality – I consider it to be a necessary site for resistance within and alongside the sexual politics of freedom.

I approach this topic through a reading of a recent neuroqueer science fiction novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. The protagonist, Aster, is an enslaved subaltern worker in the isolated community of a huge ship lost in deep space. Being black, queer, and non-binary, Aster struggles to survive within the oppressive caste system that orders the society of the ship. But her neurodivergence makes her an actively disruptive force. Unable to conform to the strictures of deference and proper behaviour, Aster operates outside the frame of recognition with a strategic fugitivity that the ruling class cannot contain.
Period17 Sep 2020
Event titleThe Sexual Politics of Freedom
Event typeConference
LocationGalway, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Queer theory
  • Neurotypicality
  • Narratology
  • Relationality
  • Speculative fiction
  • Recognition