Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is directly linked to alcohol exposure to a growing fetus while in utero, and is commonly expressed as a cognitive disorder that affects executive brain functioning and impairs one’s ability to think consequentially. Since its medical ‘discovery’ in the 1970s FASD has moved from a public health concern that targeted the social norms and behaviours of women, to a risk factor for criminological behaviours for children with FASD. In the settler state of Canada, the lasting trope of Indigenous alcoholism and the growing crisis of Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice system have provided discursive conditions in which to associate FASD as a primarily “Aboriginal problem.” This paper argues that clinical, legal, and popular assumptions of FASD as a racial disorder are produced through a distinct colonial repertoire of intimate practices for encountering the Indigenous body. It will outline several structural-institutional realities in which Indigenous lives are made penetrable and readily accessible to state actors and the general public, and examine the affective and sensual modes of experience that mediate interpretations and experiences of the Indigenous body as dysfunctional and disordered, and thus suitable for the medical-legal diagnosis of FASD.