Autoethnography: An Overview

I was excited to read this weeks article for our first blog post because in one of my classes this semester I will be conducting an autoethnography project and I am eager to learn more about the topic! In the short article Autoethnography: An Overview authors Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams & Arthur P. Bochner present a definition of Autoethnography. In the very beginning of the text, the authors present a definition of the term autoethnography and what it actually means. The term autoethnography is a study of both personal and cultural experience. (auto- for personal and ethno- for cultural experience). Additionally, throughout the text, the authors describe how to do this type of research and the process it takes to understand autoethnography overall.

Definition: 

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.

Opinion:

Before reading this article I had a clue of what the study of autoethnography entails, however, after reading this article I now have a better idea of how to conduct this type of research and the different approaches to take. What I most enjoyed about the article was the way the author sectioned the topics in order to provide an intelligible way of understanding the topic. Furthermore, in the article, the authors describe how in order to do this type of research one must aim to consciously understand the political and social behaviors of an individual. These two aspects form and shape identity and create a cultural experience. I believe the article does a great analysis describing the relational ethics and personal narrative construction of individual identity. This understanding is crucial for conducting autoethnography research. Having that in mind I can expect to complete adequate autoethnography research.

The Process: 

The authors state that the process of autoethnography research is a method. In order to properly access the result of this type of research authors, scholars and researchers must have the right tools and techniques to conduct this study. they may interview, use photographs, journals, and recordings to help with this resrach. I agree that all these tools are sufficient mechanics to do research. furthermore. the authors describe that the process of documenting autoethnography research is a form of storytelling and it should not be biased. I believe the authors state this because this type of research has to be truthful and reflect the experience of the individual without fiction or lies. The story should be realible credible and most importanly valid. Without the bias opinion of researchers, this study will have an honest result and reflect both the persoal and culrual life of the subject.

Overall I thought the article was a great read and a short introduction for beginners to do this type of study.

Read The Article Here: 

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011, January). Autoethnography: An Overview. Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

A 2-in-1 Research Method

I really hope that I did not read the incorrect article assigned for this week. The course syllabus will take some time getting used to. I was just about to read Grounded Theory Methodology but then I realized it was actually for next week (right?). Still, the actual article for this week, Autoethnography: An Overview, turned out to be an interesting read (and short). Though, one small criticism that I should bring up is the constant brackets with credits and dates scattered throughout; it really interrupted the flow.

Anyways, the article, as stated in its title, was about autoethnograpy. The term sounded somewhat familiar when I read it. I might have read another article about it at some point, though I could not remember it specifically. It is described as a qualitative research method which combined autobiography and ethnography (auto- for personal and ethno- for cultural experience), and studied them mutually. I guess, it is more of a reflective research; discovering concepts or notions through self-reflection within boundaries of culture. It is also described as a combination of process and product. The process aspect being the connective tissue and the product aspect being the result of it. I do not believe that I personally conducted an autoethnograpy before but implementing my own personal experience into it as a comparison and the possibility of it being therapeutic is indeed intriguing.

Speaking of personal experience, there was a brief mention of perspectives in research at the beginning of the article which I found interesting. The general consensus is that research needs to be objective but how do we determine the objectivity in a research could be a subjective matter (does that make sense?). The purpose of a research could easily be subjective and that subjectivity could be reflected in the research unintentionally. For example, if the purpose of researcher is proving a bias, whether for or against it, at certain points where further research is needed, the researcher might indulge in his or her subjectivity and simply end it right there since the “expected” result is “proven”. The article also mentioned the “default” perspective that many people believe in; something defined by things such as gender, race, and status. Although it may seem “default” for those who fit the bill, for others that is not the case. In my opinion, particular reasons such as these make every qualitative (maybe even quantitative) research subjective in nature. Autoethnograpy apparently acknowledges and embraces that subjective nature to its benefit. I’m not so sure about the success of its result, however.

That brings us to the critique of this method. According to the opponents, by implementing a narrative aspect to it, the research gets decorated by “facets of storytelling” and becomes “too artful and not scientific enough” for legitimacy. It is difficult for me to counter-argue that claim. As stated above, the subjective nature of research makes it difficult to uphold its result as evidence for a claim. It seems to be too dependent on the beliefs and ideals of the reader of that research. Its nature makes it too easy for someone who disagrees with the result to dismiss it out of hand. The article claims that there is a gap between disciplines of art and science in the eyes of experts who tend to criticize this combined method. Although I certainly agree that there is a gap, I personally do not know how to address it properly (I ought to do a research on that). I should also mention that I found titles such as “novel-gazer” or “self-absorbed narcissist” given by those opponents to the autoethnograpy conductors quite funny. I’m even more inclined to conduct one now.

Obviously, the main reason behind criticism is the question of reliability in this method of research. The researcher’s credibility is very important. That adds an additional requirement of effort to identify that reliability. I, myself, do not know the credibility of any of the names credited on this particular article. I assume that they are reliable researchers (why else would they be credited?) but unless I personally check up on those sources, I can’t make a solid claim. Once again, some semblance of subjectivity seems to be in place; an opponent could possible refute that credibility in order to dismiss the result. The article mentioned the “literary license”. The majority of writers tend to embellish their stories or add more dramatic stuff for a wider appeal. One could wonder if the person who conducts an autoethnograpy is also susceptible to those tendencies that could jeopardize the validity of it. Many opponents apparently make the assertion that autoethnograpy should “better [be] viewed as a fiction” rather than a “legit” research, which creates a question for another discussion: what makes a research “legit”? I’m sure we’ll cover that more in-depth eventually.

There were so many other small details to extract from the article but I’m certain that we will go over them in class. So, I’ll just end my post right here. I do not know if I’ll ever have to conduct an autoethnograpy, but I’m glad to know that I’ll be able to identify one if I ever see it.

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Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011, January). Autoethnography: An Overview. Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095