Making Scenes: Imaginative Practices of a Child with Autism in a Sensory Integration–Based Therapy Session


A tension in medical anthropology, as an interdisciplinary field, exists between those polar territories of the logic—and therefore grammars—of a positivist–scientific stance of biomedicine and a literary–philosophical one used to represent experience. Taking up literary-philosophical and existential perspectives from anthropology proper, I draw on an ethnographic study of a sensory-integration–based clinic to propose that imaginative practices are one arena where such tension can be worked out. Enacted narratives, as a method, reveal how imaginative practices foreground the ways in which desire and hope are integral to healing. Kenneth Burke’s (1969[1945])theory of dramatism, particularly his scene: act ratio, provides an analytic lens to examine the imaginary play of a singular session between a child with autism and an occupational therapist. Further, an interpretive frame that tacks between the positivist–biomedical and literary–philosophical discourses excavates how making scenes is integral to a healing of belonging and its embodiment.

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