Neurodivergent Humanities Network and Mentorship Programme Launch

‘New ways of thinking, being and doing research’: the founders explain the ethos of the Neurodivergent Humanities Network and introduce their anti-hierarchical mentorship scheme.

The Neurodivergent Humanities Network will launch on 20 April 2023 during the fifth Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research (NNMHR) Congress online (attendance is free, everyone is welcome). The network is one of four Critical Medical Humanities networks that received funding from the NNMHR in 2022.

The Neurodivergent Humanities Network is a safe and generative space that accommodates the diverse, individual needs of scholars working in the humanities, while offering a shared sense of community and support.

We explore and pilot new modes of thinking, being, and doing research in ways that better support our neurodivergent needs, within and beyond institutional structures and practices. The research paths we are co-developing reject the prevailing deficit model in neurodivergence discourse; instead, we seek to reframe best practices as teaching, learning, and research methods that can best support the diverse needs and skills within our community in an academic environment.

Neurodivergent Humanities Network logo

The network is developing an online hub to share resources, where we can consolidate our experiences of what has worked (and not worked!) in the academic spaces we have encountered, and ultimately create a more hospitable space for us to undertake our research. The Neurodivergent Humanities Network website publicises resources on neurodiversity studies and being neurodivergent in academia.

The network also runs regular roundtable workshops to bring together scholars from different fields, to brainstorm collaboratively about better access and practices in academic spaces. All collaborative work and thinking will feed into what we are formulating as a ‘manifesto on the move’: a living, co-produced, and ever-changing document of best practices for engaging with research and supporting neurodivergence, which we will keep returning to and building on. As a concept and social movement, it is constantly expanding and evolving definitions, goals, and terms, and we aim to embody this in our own ethos.

In line with the ethos to accommodate and advocate for a plurality of experiences, we will be actively engaged with other academic and activist networks, such as the Black Health and the Humanities Network led by one of the Network coordinators, Arya Thampuran, and the Narratives of Neurodiversity Network. There is currently a strong link with several Belgian research networks as well: for instance, with the NeuroEpigenEthics research group at the University of Antwerp (with Kristien Hens and Leni Van Goidsenhoven) and the participatory neurodiversity research projects at KU Leuven (with Ilse Noens and Gert-Jan Vanaken). This will allow us to collaboratively formulate our practices and principles through an intersectional, interdisciplinary lens.

Mentorship programme

To sustain these connections, we are offering a mentorship programme where early career researchers and scholars who have personal resonance with this work can support one another. This mentorship model is committed to a collaborative, non-hierarchical ethos; we recognise that there is mutual learning and sharing to be had at whatever stage or level of career as we navigate academic spaces from our distinct positionalities and relationships to this research. This programme aims to bring together differently situated scholars – from students to early career researchers to senior academics – to pave new, non-hierarchical forms of knowledge and collaboration, and to foster a supportive and welcoming environment where different ideas, perspectives, and minds can flourish.

The ethos of mentorship will be as anti-hierarchical as possible: While we acknowledge that more senior academics can give insights into the workings of the academy, we also believe that the knowledge and insights of early-career researchers – who, due to the precarious nature of academic employment, may not have the same opportunities to disseminate their research and methods – play an important role in academic practice. We believe that combining diverse perspectives will create opportunities for knowledge construction and formation, strengthen connections through networking, and promote solidarity and support in an academic and industrial climate that can often feel intimidating and hostile.

We strongly encourage applications… particularly from researchers who experience particular precarities or vulnerabilities due to race, ethnicity, age, disability, gender, sexuality, income, or any other aspect of marginalised status. Diagnostic status is not required for participation in the scheme.

The mentorship scheme will be a year-long programme with two key purposes: firstly, to examine what a neurodiversity studies perspective can be and what it can contribute to critical medical humanities; secondly, to develop mutually supportive relationships to aid neurodivergent scholars in building careers in critical medical humanities inside and beyond the formal structures of academia. Mentors and mentees may work together to produce forms of research that fall within the traditional confines of academia such as article writing and conference planning, but we also welcome less ‘traditional’ formats and methods of knowledge dissemination such as podcasts, films, creative writing, and performance pieces.

We strongly encourage applications for both mentor and mentee roles, particularly from researchers who experience particular precarities or vulnerabilities due to race, ethnicity, age, disability, gender, sexuality, income, or any other aspect of marginalised status. Diagnostic status is not required for participation in the scheme. We respect the validity of self-identification; there is no requirement for applicants to disclose specific diagnoses, and we do not seek to determine what ‘counts’ as a neurodivergent condition. We also invite applications from potential mentees who are on precarious contracts. Mentors are typically expected to be at postdoctoral level, but may still apply if they are not at that level but feel they have specific experience, giving their reasons in their application.

During the launch event on 20 April 2023 at the fifth NNMHR Congress we will introduce ourselves, and share our aims and goals with both the ‘manifesto on the move’ and the mentoring scheme. This will also be a space to answer all your questions, and we invite suggestions for future activities that you would like to see us host to best support work within this community.

We look forward to e-meeting you online! Visit the Neurodivergent Humanities Network website for more information. Mentoring scheme application forms will be circulated at the launch, and do keep a lookout for more to come!

About the authors

The founders of the Neurodivergent Humanities Network are Louise Creechan, Ria Cheyne, Arya Thampuran, Leni Van Goidsenhoven, Sarinah O’Donoghue and Alice Hagopian. The Neurodivergent Humanities Network Twitter is @NDHumanities.

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