This post is in the Autoethnography category

The pioneers of autoethnography sought through an honest and open mode of writing to bring an individual perception of “reality” to the table of knowledge. The subject matter has been frequently uncomfortable – illness and death (Ellis, 1995; Fisher, 2007; Kenny, 2006; Lee, 2006; Neville-Jan, 2004; Richards, 2008; Wyatt, 2005), personal and domestic violence (Ellis, 2004; Mackie, 2009; Shuler, 2007; Waterston, 2005), displacement and sexuality (Morra, 2007; Neville-Jan, 2004; Trotter, Brogatzki, Duggan, Foster, & Levie, 2006; Wagner, 2009), and the style is at times brutally honest, “tell it like it is” writing. At times it is highly and unapologetically subjective. While Delamont (2007) suggests that “we” as in the researcher, are not interesting enough to be the subject of sociological research and journal articles, I would argue “who is?” The success of autobiography as a genre in the mainstream bookshops would attest to the ability of “writing about the self” to inform the reader in some way that is relevant to themselves, rather than simply the “character” in the text. In writing about and placing the self in social context, as we are urged to do as researchers, personal experience and associated bias and subjectivity can be treated as a flavour to be acknowledged and privileged rather than forcibly and artificially removed.

Grant indicates that “autoethnography does not seek to be work that generates data or tests predictions or leads to explanations” (cited in Short & Grant, 2009, p. 198) rather to evoke an understanding beyond the world of the subject/observer (Ellis & Bochner, 1996, p. 24). Denzin indicates that the method should engage the audience in meaning-making (Denzin, 1997) to share as much of the experience as possible and that alternative forms of communication such as art, poetry illustration and performance can encourage this mode. At its best, it should be “a research method that can touch the soul and raise the dead” (Allen & Piercy, 2005, p. 163).

Autoethnography, like music itself, relies on a more active form of receipt, it is a more readerly text (Barthes & Heath, 1988) asking the reader to allow themselves to become involved, and to look inside for their response. It is a way to connect the self to the other.

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