Ethnographic Knitting

As an autistic anthropologist, I wanted to find ways of doing research that are more accessible and reflect who I am. I started knitting right before graduate school, and it quickly became a central part of my life. Before long, I was knitting in classes and meetings, realizing that it helped me process information. When I brought knitting with me to my ethnographic fieldwork, I found that it changed how I interacted with people and the types of conversations that I had. These experiences taught me that knitting can play an important role in knowledge production.

I decided that part of the reason I connected to knitting was that it provided a repetitive, soothing, tactile experience that aligned with some autistic sensory practices. In other words, knitting feels autistic. As knitting came to occupy a central part of my life, I decided that it should be part of how I approached academic work. This project took shape out of a desire to explore how various interests and activities come to matter to autistic people and what this tells us about navigating life in an ableist world. By combining my interest in knitting with my interlocutors’ interests, I work to create material evidence that autistic people lead meaningful lives.