Leni Van Goidsenhoven

Leni Van Goidsenhoven


Rodestraat 14
2000 Antwerpen, BEL

As a researcher I am interested in doing theoretical work that is in continual touch with 'a world' and that pushes and questions the boundaries of standard research practices.

Having obtained my PhD in Cultural Studies and Literary Studies (KU Leuven) I am now as a postdoctoral fellow involved in the interdisciplinary project NeuroEpigenEthics (funded by an ERC Starting Grant). Within that project I am working on the intersection of disability studies, feminist new materialism, cultural studies and literary theory. My focus is on integrating life experiences of people with disabilities and their families by using arts-based research methods and inspired by qualitative inquiry. 

Together with the Finish performance artist, Sonja Jokiniemi, I am also leading the project ‘Caring for Stories: Participatory Action Research on Autism and Self-Expression’ (KU Leuven). Despite the great attention for self-narratives within Disability Studies, the arts and popular media, it is apparent that not everyone is acknowledged as an equally competent narrator or storyteller. People who have difficulties speaking, for instance, get fewer opportunities to enter into dialogue or to express their fears and desires. Their needs are often interpreted by 'the outside' and then fed into diagnostic labeling. 
The project 'Caring for Stories', therefore, provides creative workshops and co-working proposals for people who have difficulties speaking and draws attention to non-verbal strategies of expression and narration.
The workshops and co-working proposals explore self-expression in relation to objects, materials and experience. Sense-based exploration is used to investigate new kinds of connections with the individual expressions, environment and its material qualities.

PhD: Autism in Plural: the potential of life writing for alternative forms of subjectivity (2017)

                                                    -  Will be published with Garant in 2020 (Dutch)

Autism in Plural focuses on the contemporary proliferation and popularity of published self-narratives by people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. These self-narratives, also called autie-biographies or autie-narratives, are all concerned with the question: what does autism mean for me as a subject? The emphasis lies on the question how subjects deal with the label of autism spectrum disorders, rather than on the discussion of the nature or reality of the condition itself. In addition, this focus on dealing with a label leads us to the question whether this practice – the way subjects are dealing with a label – can influence or can have effects on the diagnostic category itself (cf. Ian hacking 2010).
Apart from the practice dealing with a label and writing about autism life experiences, this research also pays attention to the product that results from this practice of self-expression. When someone publishes a self-narrative, both off and online, she enters into the public sphere and the self-narrative becomes part of a broader cultural phenomenon, such as the memoir boom. This entails that it must regarded in relation to existing narrative patterns, genres, a creative industry and an audience. The complex relation between a writing practice and a writing product is extremely interesting and leads to the following key question: How do autie-narratives function as cultural products and as subject-constituting practices that generate categories of identity, make them recognizable and reproducible on the one hand, and question, problematize and undermine them on the other hand?



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