Dinah Murray, 1946-2021

Submitted by AWL on 20 July, 2021 - 7:30 Author: Janine Booth
Dinah Murray

Photo: Panda Mery


Workers’ Liberty is saddened to learn of the death of Dr Dinah Murray.

Dinah spoke alongside me at two of our Ideas for Freedom summer schools and at an online forum last year, on the subject of neurodiversity, autism, capitalism and Marxism. Each time she provided valuable insights and increased the level of understanding among the comrades who listened.

Dinah was a thinker, an activist, and a thoroughly nice human being.

As a thinker, she developed (with others) an interest theory of autism, that the difference between autistic and non-autistic people is their differing strategies for allocating the finite amount of attention available to them. Autistic people are monotropic, tunneling their attention into a small number of intense interests; non-autistic people are polytropic, spreading their attention across diffuse interests. This theory is the most credible challenge yet to the dominant theories of autism (such as theory of mind and executive dysfunction) which assume in advance that autistic people are flawed versions of “normal” people.

As an activist, Dinah took part in several key projects for building autistic community, including the annual Autscape event and the National Autism Taskforce. She prioritised ensuring that autistic voices are heard in discussions about autism, especially those who are most often excluded, such as non-speaking and/or high-needs autistic people.

Dinah was part of the steering group that drafted the Labour Party Autism / Neurodiversity Manifesto, and supported the work of Neurodivergent Labour, although she left the Labour Party shortly before her death, frustrated at its rightward direction.

Dinah was able to play such an important role in autistic politics and community because of her commitment and her powerful intellect — and also because of her warmth and empathy. She always listened to and welcomed different views, seeking to understand them as well as possible even when she knew she would disagree. She helped others to grow in confidence and to build projects that would take the struggle forward. She was delightful company and a great friend.

When the story of how we won autistic liberation is written, Dinah Murray’s name will feature prominently.

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