Habitual Favourites: A Sensory Sociology of Autism

Rourke, Robert. 2017. Habitual Favourites: A Sensory Sociology of Autism. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis emerges from a 10 month ethnographic participant observation project of an charity-run Youth and Social Clubs conducted between September 2014 - July 2015 that examines the sensory experiences of autistic individuals in relation to their favourite, routinised activities or “habitual favourites”, alongside taking part in club activities such as board games, console gaming, casual discussion and club trips to public spaces. The research included 6 focus groups with 6 Youth Club participants, all white with 4 males and 2 females aged between 16-25, alongside 4 focus groups with 6 Social Club participants, all male and white from age 25-65+.

The study uses a sociology of the senses approach to explore the habitual ways in which those with autism interact with their “favourites”. The thesis argues that the concepts of quasi-object and parasite reveal the complex interdependencies of stability and disruption in sensory experience. This complexity is also reflected in the author’s own experiences, and autoethnographic reflections consider how habitual and sensory experiences impact autistic academic identity, writing and research practices. Sensory experience is fruitfully understood through the influences of emplaced milieus of sensory and habitual interaction which are mutually constituted through distributed relations of human and non-human relations. Autistic experiences constitute a way to explore our taken-for-granted notions of social interaction and develop accounts that expand what we consider to be the condition of the human. Sociological attention to autism in the habitual favourites framework provides empirically rich and nuanced concepts to develop insights into autistic experience.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



autism, habits, favourites, autoethnography, atmospheres, quasi-object, parasite, theory of mind, sensory sociology

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Sep 2017 14:38

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:32



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