"It's all of these puzzle pieces" : the representation and the manifest discourse of dyslexic experience : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Dyslexia as a term to define bodies has undergone various interpretations in the 120 years since it was first diagnosed (Shawitz 1996:98). The numbers of people calculated as dyslexic world wide ranges from 1 in 4 to 1 in 10 reflecting confusion about what dyslexia actually is, as well as issues around how people are diagnosed (Elliot and Grigorenko 2014:31-34). Research about dyslexa has happened in a variety of fields including education, psychology, and medicine but anthropology has been predominantly silent in the discourse of dyslexia. This thesis explores dyslexia from an anthropological perspective as embodied experience and expression through worlding. Through working collaboratively with people with dyslexia it explores intersubjective relationships, language expression, sensory awareness and being-in-the-world. A central part of this exploration was using art as a way to understand knowing (Rapport and Harris 2007, Hogan and Pink 2010), which expanded into explorations of how dyslexics attune sensory knowing and pay attention to all of the experiences of everyday life. Using art as an empathetic ethnographic invitation I discuss and explore dyslexia as a way of knowing and moving through the world. Therefore, I focus on dyslexia beyond a diagnosis into the way people inhabit and negotiate their experiences as complex, creative agents in their lifeworlds. The research covers creation of artworks, making new words to represent dyslexic experiences and many discussions late into the night. It has been a collaborative exploration of experience. From discussions of whether Giraffes need scarves through to declarations of “we are iron man” my collaborators have expressed their ways of being-in-the-world and this thesis engages with their dynamic ways of interpreting and knowing the world.