A Postmodern Journey on Learning about Autoethnography


Sarah Wall’s article An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography, focuses on a more possible progressive approach to qualitative research that permits the writer/researcher to connect and personalize their study based on personal experience to cultural , in addition to a nontraditional means of defining the study’s inquiry and the writer/researchers expression. Although this article is about autoethnography, Wall’s unique direction in her study helps her to recognize her own voice and  self within her writing and not to mention other’s works. Through her thorough readings of fellow autoethnographers on their individual journey, Wall acknowledges her questions, concerns and/or curiosities are probably shared with many people. 

Wall comes from a positivist background in which she states, positivists believe “real” science can only be quantitative, experimental and understood by only a selected few. In other words any forms of science should and can be proved because the science community looks down upon “fluffy” connections to any aspect of society (people, individual lives and certain dilemmas). 

With the rise of postmodernism, it allows her to take hold and widen her range of inquiry for research strategies pertaining to objectivity and subjectivity. Autoethnography broadens her perception of what science is, what it represents and how it represents.

Within her article, she convertly explains that her own style of writing isn’t about critiquing others or oneself but getting the story out in a way that resonates with you. She refers to five or six writers and subtract certain themes within their writing that can develop her knowledge. Her purpose isn’t to interject all of her personal information into her research but rather to relate it through a societal and cultural way. Her article ends with an understanding that “knowledge does not have to result from research to be worthwhile, and personal stories should have their own place alongside research.” 



Surprisingly, I actually liked this article because it was easy to relate. Like Wall mentioned, yes the article is about autoethnography but it focuses more on self, voice, experience and challenging the genre of inquiry. Basically she is a part of her research. I appreciate the inclusion of Pelias, Duncan, Holt, Muncey and Sparkes. None of these writers have anything in common except for the theme of autoethnography. The way they chose to relate in such a humanistic manner; as if, life isn’t all about their research. It’s humorous how well the stories are similar yet different.

When Wall stated that feminist writers advocate for research that starts with one’s own expereince, I remembered the struglle with advertisement agencies not connceting with the target audience. Basically, men were the advertisers that were selling products females used in the household or personally. The male point of view lacked the significance of the consumer (subject) and product (objectivity). In fact the disconnect, inexperience and lack of orientation, sellers could have a loss in sales. When you bridge a gap between consumer and seller then relation is developed. Therefore feminist writers wrote for themselves and other women that could relate to similar issues. 

On page 148, she referred to the omission of a researcher’s voice leading to the reduction of his/her writing to a summary and interpretation of searched information. Last summer, when I had to write my own inquiry, I struggled with comprehending my voice and how to recognize my capabilities. By permitting myself to include my experience within the story, it furthered my knowledge and brought the writing piece to a newer level of research. I wanted to continue the process of adding.

In order to write, a researcher has to know the direction of their style of writing, literary or scientific. I wonder when we mentioned co-authoring an article on autoethnography, I wonder if her co-writer was a man. I thought if the gender was different it was harder to break away from the use of ‘we’, rather than a same gender co-writer. I think the description of autoethnography from Ellis was funny, “autoethnography does not proceed linearly” can be likened to being sent “into the woods without a compass.” The purpose is not to get comfortable but to tour the entire area. Get to know all that you can.

For some reason, I’ve been referring to Wall as Walker in my head (side note not a good idea if we met in person). As the weeks progress, I am gradually understanding research methods more specifically, qualitative research methods. After reading Wall’s article I wanted to hear her explain autoethnography in detail.



Work Cited:

Wall, Sarah. “An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography.” International Institute for Qualitative Methoodology (IIQM): University of Alberta (2006).

Wall, Sarah. “Autoethnography: Possibility and Controversy.” YouTube, ATLAS.ti – Qualitative Data Analysis, 25 July 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEWF0SV9F_s.

Using DA to Analyze Trump’s Tweet on “The Chinese Virus”

Reaction to:

  • An Introduction to Discourse Analysis by James Paul Gee
  • Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple by Tatyana Bondarouk and Huub Ruel

Discourse analysis came in handy this week as President Trump referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” From his tweet, we can discern that language matters, diction matters. 

James Paul Gee defines discourse analysis (DA) as “language in use.” He contends that language is “more than saying things”; it is “saying, doing, and being.” In other words, “language allows us to do things and to be things.” The verbs in language enable us to think, discuss, and debate. Language shapes our identity: when we are with our friends, we use colloquial language, when at work, we use a more formal style.

Furthermore, Gee claims that language has a socio-political aspect to it. He provides an example of the term marriage in that gay couples want to call their unions “marriage” because it invokes a sense of “social good.” Overall, people want to be associated with positively connotated terms such as the “good student,” “good wife,” and the “good boss.” Gee goes on to suggest that language is political. He claims that “politics is the distribution of social goods — that is, who gets power, money, power, and acceptance.” From this statement, once can discern that James Paul Gee is a critical discourse analyst since he believes that “language itself is political.” He also asserts that “My view — the view of this book is that all discourse analysis needs to critical–“

To clarify: There are two types of discourse analysis: descriptive and critical. According to Gee, graphic analysts’ goal is to “describe how language works to understand it” and “their work may have applications to the world.” In other words, in descriptive analysis, the goal is to describe language in terms of grammar and syntax. So, let’s analyze Trump’s tweet using descriptive discourse analysis. According to Trump, he calls it 

“Chinese” because the virus originated from Wuhan, China. He selected this adjective because it describes the origin of the virus. Now, let’s use a critical lens. Scientists and the medical community purposely did not label viruses with particular regions or groups. They intentionally changed the coronavirus to COVID-19 to prevent bias, stigmatism, and xenophobia. However, Trump went against the medical community by using “Chinese” to describe the virus. It was a political move to shift the blame on Beijing. As a result of his tweet, there has been an uptick in East Asian bias and bigotry. For example: when my sister was picking up a prescription at the Colonia Walgreens, a white man whispered in her ear, “Go back to China and bring the virus with you!” She reported the bias incident to the pharmacist. Yes, language is political. 

Critics of critical discourse analysis argue that there may be bias in the analysts’ interpretations; whereas, critics of descriptive discourse analysis say that analysts neglect their social and political duties if they are focusing solely on describing language. In the case of Trump’s tweet, I would say that ignoring the social and political ramifications of his adjective would be unconscionable.

I do see flaws in critical discourse analysis. Take, for example, the misunderstanding between Sara, the history professor, and the two teachers, Mary and Karen. The analyst’s questions at the end of the transcript were leading, especially questions 8 and 9.

8.) What in the language tells you that Karen is probably anger or perturbed?

9.) What do you think Sara did that angered or perturbed Karen?

My interpretation of this meeting is that Karen and Mary were annoyed with Sara because she had initially contacted them regarding conducting research. Karen and Mary returned her call and agreed to meet at the summer institute. However, Sara did not show up. 

As a teacher, I would be annoyed at Sara too — regardless of her race. Yet, the analyst mentioned race in the questions. Would it have made a difference if everyone was the same race? No, it would not have made a difference because one party felt slighted by the other party. In this scenario, the racial implication complicated a simple misunderstanding. Nonetheless, context and tone are two essential components of critical discourse analysis.

Since there were multiple interpretations of the meeting with Sara, Karen, and May, I appreciated the idea of the “hermeneutical circle” that Bondarouk and Ruel referred to in Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple. Within critical discourse analysis, there is an allowance for “open interpretations,” and the “interpretations are not final.” Since there is no final authority, it provides the audience with the agency to decide the social and political ramifications of written or spoken text. Therefore, discourse analysis, unlike other research methods, draws from “the broadest range of factors” such as the past and the present, historical events, societal views, and technological considerations.  

At the end of the article, Bondarouk and Ruel address the problem of critical discourse analysis? What if the reader does not agree with the interpretation? Then, what? They refer to Chang, who says, “Change yourself.”

That is easier said than done. Bondarouk and Ruel reasons that “if a critic becomes able to appropriate the given interpretations, this will enable him to suggest improvements.” This line of reasoning appears to be circular and unconvincing. However, they end on a more reassuring note by mentioning inter-subjectivity where we arrive at a ‘final’ interpretation by “using a circle of evidence” and “through an openness for interpretations and critiques.”

 “And that will bring us back to the inter-subjectivity we have mentioned earlier. In essence, the validity of discourse analysis is developed through a dialectical process of using a circle of evidence to create social reality, and through the openness for other interpretations and critiques.” 

It appears that graduate students engage in inter-subjectivity where we come into a discussion with our interpretations of a text. Then we listen to other students’ and the professor’s interpretations and critiques. From listening to the evidence, we revise our initial interpretations through this “circle of evidence” and leave class with a sense of clarity. And that is the beauty of graduate classes: the shift from solipsism to inter-subjectivity.