This Is My Story

“Autoethnography: An Overview” and “Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative Identity” allowed me to reflect on why specific individuals write stories today. Many stories are categorized as fiction, but some individuals may have experienced what the author has not. Writing paves the way for individuals to express themselves and share their experiences. Growing up I’ve always been focused on the facts. Searching online for scholarly articles, not realizing one is able to use their story and the one’s surrounding them. Yes, everyone loves presenting the facts, but where do those facts come from? Is it from the same like-minded individuals who share the same race, beliefs, etc.? Ellis, Adams, and Bochner give insight into the importance of gathering information from different sources. A quote that stood out from these authors was, “Furthermore, scholars began recognizing that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world—a multitude of ways of speaking, writing, valuing and believing—and that conventional ways of doing and thinking about research were narrow, limiting, and parochial.” Numerous stories have yet to be told because often, research can only focus on the common ways of doing things. The sections that touched me the most that I have annotated are the personal benefits of autoethnography. How often are you asked questions that make you reflect on your darkest days? If anything, in today’s society, we focus on how far we have come and suppressed those times. Autoethnography allows participants to speak on their experiences. Grant and Zeeman state that “…writing personal stories can be therapeutic for individuals as they make better sense of themselves or their experiences, purge themselves of their burdens, and/or determine what kinds of lives they should live.” For some, there is a sense of relief when given a chance to let go and speak on their tribulations. One can feel heard and seen. Autoethnography also permits others to view the privilege they may have while also having a deeper connection and understanding of others. I find that this ties into the author’s mention of the feelings of the interviewer. Listening to others’ stories can affect the interviewer and allow one to then reflect on their life. From reading my peer’s blog post, I find that my one concern resonates with one of my peers, Maura. How much is too much? The authors clarify that one may need to mask the identities and locations of not only participants but also themselves. It is a small world, and individuals can piece together information within the blink of an eye. Altering information may seem unethical, but for certain individuals, it is needed. Although one may want to share their stories, some friends or families may have not fully come to terms with their experiences and may not want their identity to be disclosed.

Unit 4: Autoethnography

The articles  An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography by Sarah Wall and Whose Story Is It? An Autoethnography Concerning Narrative Identity by Alec J. Grant and Laetitia Zeeman provided interesting perspectives and insights into Autoethnography. Wall defines autoethnography as Autoethnography is an “emerging qualitative research method that allows the author to write in a highly personalized style, drawing on his or her experience to extend understanding about a societal phenomenon” (Wall, 1). This being my first introduction to this type of research methodology, I found both articles particularly interesting. In the Wall article, she articulates her understanding of an autoethnography and describes it in simple terms making it comprehensible for novice researchers, like myself. In particular, prefacing the article with the old age question “ what constitutes knowledge?” opens the mind of the reader to new ways of understanding knowledge.  An ‘emancipatory theory’ that gives agency and validity  to personal narratives and positions them as available sources of knowledge. This type of research methodology focuses on the “growing emphasis on the power of research to change the world create a space for the sharing of unique, subjective, and evocative stories of experience that contribute to our understanding of the social world and allow us to reflect on what could be different because of what we have learned” (Wall, 3).

   As a novice researcher, I found Wall’s concerns about autoethnography very relatable. Especially considering the fact that this methodology is still not wholly accepted. While I find this methodology intriguing and appealing on a personal level, I fear that novice researchers need to assert themselves among their peers using more traditional methods before opting to undertake an autoethnography. It is a bit conflicting to feel this way, because I feel an autoethnographies can serve as a platform for many unheard voices, mine included. But at the same time, as a novice researcher I also feel the need to prove that I am capable of the traditional and conventional methods before moving on to more avant-garde methods. Once a researcher is more established and “authenticated” within their field, the more likely their autoethnography will be more widely received. Perhaps, that is the whole goal of autoethnographies, to remove the traditional power paradigm where the measure of success is approval and validation of what we as researchers believe to be known as true.

I believe methodological rigor is important to a certain degree, it only becomes a hindrance when it systematically excludes narratives by marginalized groups. Rigor should not be synonymous with the exclusion of the personal narrative. When attempting to address social phenomena through research, the main goal of any researcher is to increase knowledge and understanding, expecting the researcher to be completely objective is a bit unrealistic. At best, research within the humanities lends itself to a lifelong goal of increasing understanding the human condition. What better way for humans to connect with each other than through personal narratives that have theory weaved throughout it?

Whilst reading this article, I could not help but think back to “Can The Subaltern Speak” by Spivak. No matter how well intentioned researchers are, there is something valuable lost when people are unable to tell their own stories.  Similar to translating a text into another language, no matter how close one gets to the meaning of the original text, a part of the original language is lost in translation. Personal narratives in the form of autoethnographies help to retain the beauty confined within the researcher’s personal experience, combined with the researchers ability to present their narrative through a theoretical or a creative production that provides meaning-making and relatability. 

Methodologies are not always agreed upon, this does not negate their validity. Perhaps, with time this research method can be perfected and used more effectively. This can only be achieved through practice. Either way, personal narratives can not be excluded because they provide insight and humanity that scientific methodology simply can not.