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Elizabeth Fein

Assistant Professor
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

206 Rockwell Hall
Phone: 412-396-4852


Ph.D., University of Chicago, Department of Comparative Human Development

I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. Grateful for the opportunity to receive clinical training in an interdisciplinary department, I aim to support other clinician-scholars who wish to train in multiple epistemic traditions. I bring together approaches and insights from psychology, anthropology, and science and technology studies, to better understand how people make sense of the world around them, and how these sense-making activities transform the world in turn.

I focus particularly on psychiatric and neurodevelopmental diagnoses and the people who inhabit and shape these categorizations. My recent research explores the lived experience of Asperger's Syndrome among youth and young adults in the United States. My upcoming book, Brainhoods: An Ethnography of Asperger's Syndrome in Community Life, under contract with NYU Press, examines how individuals affected by Asperger's Syndrome draw on broader discourses about biomedicine, identity and technology to make sense of this complex and contested diagnostic category. The volume Autism in Translation: An Intercultural Conversation on Autism Spectrum Conditions (forthcoming in 2018 from Palgrave Macmillan, through the Culture, Mind and Society series of the Society for Psychological Anthropology), co-edited with Clarice Rios, seeks to examine autism in its cultural, historical, political and economic contexts.

My current project, Social Connection through Creative Community: An Ethnographic Study of Participation in the Furry Fandom Among Youth on the Autism Spectrum, is an ethnographic study of autism and other neurodevelopmental differences within a creative subculture. I am also conducting in-depth, person-centered interviews with "alterhumans": those who identify as something other than human, such as therians (those who identify as a non-human animal) and otherkin (those who identify as a fictional or mythological creature).


Clinical ethnography, cultural psychology, psychological and psychiatric anthropology, neurodevelopmental disorders, science and technology studies

Recent publications

Gerbasi, K. C., Fein, E., Plante, C. N., Reysen, S., & Roberts, S. E. (2017). Furries, therians and otherkin, oh my! What do all those words mean, anyway? In T. Howl (Ed.), Furries Among Us 2: More Essays On Furries By Furries. Lansing, MI: Thurston Howl Publications. (pp. 162-176).

Fein, E. (2017). [Book review] Recovery's edge: an ethnography of mental health care and moral agency. By Neely L. Myers. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. British Journal of Psychology, 108(1): 220-221

Fein, E. (2016). Our circuits, ourselves: What the autism spectrum can tell us about the Research Domain Criteria project and the neurogenetic transformation of diagnosis. BioSocieties, 11(2) 175-198. 

Fein, E. (2015). Making meaningful worlds: role-playing subcultures and the autism apectrum. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 39(2): 299-321.

Fein, E. (2015). "No-one has to be your friend": Asperger's Syndrome and the vicious cycle of social disorder in late modern identity markets. Ethos, 43(1): 82-107.

Fein, E. (2011). Innocent machines: Asperger's Syndrome and the neurostructural self. In:Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences (Advances in Medical Sociology, Volume 12). Martyn Pickersgill and Ira van Keulen, eds. Emerald Group Publishing.

Fein, E. (2011). Together in transformation: culture, community and symbolic roleplay at an "Aspie" summer camp. In Autism Through the Lens of the Social Sciences. Morris Fred, ed. Easter Seals.

Other scholarly work

Approaches to Psychopathology, PSYC 543

Psychology of Cultural Diversity, PSYC 674

Developmental Psychology, PSYC 225W

Psychological Disorders, PSYC 252W

Clinical Ethnography, PSYC 673

I hope to offer courses on working with clients who have neurodevelopmental differences, and on the impact of technology on identity development