Megan Fereday profile

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Megan Fereday

University of Brighton (2023)


Dr Olu Jenzen


#Neuroqueer: emerging neurodivergent and queer digital cultures


‘Neuroqueer’ is “the practice of queering (subverting, defying, disrupting, liberating oneself from) neuronormativity and heteronormativity simultaneously” (Walker, 2021). In academic literature and beyond, the term denotes practices of challenging social norms around gender, sexuality, communication and sensory processing, and defying established cultural understandings of what it means to be neurodivergent.

This project incorporates both these aspects in asking: how do young people use social media to creatively challenge dominant cultural understandings of neurodivergence, gender and sexuality?

The aim of this research is to investigate how young people produce new ways of understanding neurodivergence alongside gender and sexuality, through social media. This will contribute to previous scholarship on youth digital cultures by producing new knowledge at the intersection of digital cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies and disability studies. The research is timely, in regards to current academic advancements to better understand intersectionality in relation to marginalised youth, and to the frontiers of digital social cultures.

Across social media, neuroqueer terminology is emerging as a foundation of networked publics (boyd, 2010) for queer-neurodivergent users to share information, questions and visions for social change. Situated in this digital environment, the study will build on existing scholarship into young people’s practices of negotiating gender and sexuality online (e.g. Cover, 2019), by investigating how these practices shape the emergence of new neurodivergent digital cultures.

The research will critically analyse user-generated digital content (UGC), via hashtag ethnography (Bonilla & Rosa, 2015) of the hashtag #neuroqueer and other relevant hashtags; investigating how far these networks can be considered counterpublic spaces for disidentification from dominant cultural understandings of neurological difference (Muñoz, 1999; Warner, 2002). This analysis will be situated alongside participatory research with queer-neurodivergent youth, to explore their ‘use of mainstream platforms for exploring issues around gender, sexuality and identities through activism and community formation’ (Jenzen, 2017).