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Autoethnography

Autoethnography is a form of self-reection and writing that explores the researchers personal experience and
connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings.[1][2] It
diers from ethnography a qualitative research method
in which a researcher uses participant observation and
interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a
groups culture in that autoethnography focuses on the
writers subjective experience rather than, or in interaction with, the beliefs and practices of others. As a form
of self-reective writing, autoethnography is widely used
in performance studies, as a method in living educational
research and English.

1
1.1

sonal stories and narratives. Autoethnography as a form


of ethnography, Ellis (2004) writes, is part auto or self
and part ethno or culture (p. 31) and something dierent from both of them, greater than its parts (p. 32). In
other words, as Ellingson and Ellis (2008) put it, whether
we call a work an autoethnography or an ethnography depends as much on the claims made by authors as anything
else (p. 449).
In embracing personal thoughts, feelings, stories, and observations as a way of understanding the social context
they are studying, autoethnographers are also shedding
light on their total interaction with that setting by making their every emotion and thought visible to the reader.
This is much the opposite of theory-driven, hypothesistesting research methods that are based on the positivist
epistemology. In this sense, Ellingson and Ellis (2008)
see autoethnography as a social constructionist project
that rejects the deep-rooted binary oppositions between
the researcher and the researched, objectivity and subjectivity, process and product, self and others, art and
science, and the personal and the political (pp. 450459).

Autoethnography as a qualitative
research method
Denition

According to Marchal (2010), autoethnography is a


form or method of research that involves self-observation
and reexive investigation in the context of ethnographic
eld work and writing (p. 43). A well-known autoethnographer, Carolyn Ellis (2004) denes it as research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical
and personal to the cultural, social, and political (p. xix).
However, it is not easy to reach a consensus on the terms
denition. For instance, in the 1970s, autoethnography
was more narrowly dened as insider ethnography, referring to studies of the (culture of) a group of which the
researcher is a member (Hayano, 1979). Nowadays, however, as Ellingson and Ellis (2008) point out, the meanings and applications of autoethnography have evolved
in a manner that makes precise denition dicult ..(p.
449).

1.2

Autoethnographers, therefore, tend to reject the concept


of social research as an objective and neutral knowledge
produced by scientic methods, which can be characterized and achieved by detachment of the researcher from
the researched. Autoethnography, in this regard, is a critical response to the alienating eects on both researchers
and audiences of impersonal, passionless, abstract claims
of truth generated by such research practices and clothed
in exclusionary scientic discourse (Ellingson & Ellis,
2008, p. 450). Anthropologist Deborah Reed-Danahay
(1997) also argues that autoethnography is a postmodernist construct:
The
concept
of
autoethnographysynthesizes both a postmodern ethnography, in which the realist conventions and
objective observer position of standard
ethnography have been called into question,
and a postmodern autobiography, in which the
notion of the coherent, individual self has been
similarly called into question. The term has a
double sense - referring either to the ethnography of ones own group or to autobiographical
writing that has ethnographic interest. Thus,
either a self- (auto-) ethnography or an autobiographical (auto-) ethnography can be
signaled by autoethnography. (p. 2)

Epistemological/Theoretical ground

Autoethnography diers from ethnography, (a social research method employed by anthropologists and sociologists), in that it embraces and foregrounds the researchers
subjectivity rather than attempting to limit it, as in empirical research. While ethnography tends to be understood as a qualitative method in the social sciences that
describes human social phenomena based on eldwork,
autoethnographers are themselves the primary participant/subject of the research in the process of writing per- Also, doing autoethnographic work, many researchers at1

2 TYPES, AREAS, AND APPROACHES OF AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

tempt to more fully realize the idea of reexivity by which


the researcher can be aware of his/her role in and relationship to the research. An autoethnography is a reexive account of ones own experiences situated in culture.In other words, in addition to describing and looking critically at ones own experience, an autoethnography is also a cultural practice. For example, Stacy Holman Jones (2005), in (M)othering loss: Telling adoption
stories, telling performativity, talks about her own experiences with infertility and adoption as they are linked to
cultural attitudes about transnational adoption, adoption,
infertility, and how we talk about these issues at dierent moments in time. She does so in order to understand
her own story but also to change some of the perceptions
around these issues.

Types, areas, and approaches of


autoethnography

ences such as the International Congress of Qualitative


Inquiry, and the Advances in Qualitative Methods conference sponsored by the International Institute of Qualitative Methodology. The spread of autoethnography into
other elds is also growing, and a recent special issue of
the journal Culture and Organization (Volume 13, Issue
3, Summer 2007) explores the idea of organizational autoethnography.
Autoethnography in performance studies acknowledges
the researcher and the audience as equally as important to the research. Portraying the performed 'self'
through writing then becomes an aim to create an embodied experience for the researcher and the reader. This
area acknowledges the inward and outward experience
of ethnography in experiencing the subjectivity of the
author. Audience members may experience the work
of ethnography through reading/hearing/feeling (inward)
and then have a reaction to it (outward), maybe by emotion. Ethnography and performance work together to invoke emotion in the reader.

Higher education is also featuring more as the contextual backdrop for autoethnography probably due to the
convenience of researching ones own organisation (see
Sambrook, Stewart, & Roberts, 2008; Doloriert & Sambrook, 2009, 2011). Such contributions explore the
autoethnographer as a researcher/ teacher/ administrator doing scholarly work and/or as an employee working in Higher Education. Recent contributions include
Humphreys (2005) exploration of career change, Pelias
(2003) performance narrative telling of the competing
pressures faced by an early career academic and Sparkes
(2007) heartfelt story of an academic manager during the
Analytic autoethnographers focus on destressful Research Assessment Exercise (2008). There
veloping theoretical explanations of broader
are several contributions that are insightful for the student
social phenomena, whereas evocative auautoethnographer including Sambrook, et al. (2008) who
toethnographers focus on narrative presentaexplore power and emotion in the student-supervisor retions that open up conversations and evoke
lationship, Doloriert and Sambrook (2009) who explore
emotional responses. (p. 445)
the ethics of the student 'auto'reveal, Rambo (2007) and
her experiences with review boards, and nally Doloriert
A special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Ethnog- & Sambrook (2011) discussion on managing creativity
raphy (Vol 35, Issue 4, August 2006)[3] contains several and innovation within a PhD thesis.
articles on the diverse denitions and uses of autoethnography. An autoethnography can be analytical (see Leon Researchers have begun to explore the intersection of
Anderson), written in the style of a novel (see Carolyn diversity, transformative learning, and autoethnography.
[4]
Elliss methodological novel The Ethnographic I), perfor- Glowacki-Dudka, Tre, and Usman (2005) rst promative (see the work of Norman K. Denzin, and the an- posed autoethnography as a tool to encourage diverse
thology The Ends of Performance) and many things in learners to share diverse worldviews in the classroom
between. Symbolic interactionists are particularly inter- and other settings. Both transformative learning and auested in this method, and examples of autoethnography toethnography are steeped in an epistemological worldbased on incan be found in a number of scholarly journals, such as view that reality is ever-changing and largely
[5]
examines
the
dividual
reexivity.
Drick
Boyd
(2008)
Qualitative Inquiry, the Journal of the Society for the Study
impact
of
white
privilege
on
a
diverse
group
of
individof Symbolic Interactionism, the Journal of Contemporary
Ethnography, and the Journal of Humanistic Ethnogra- uals. Through the autoethnographical process and transphy. It is not considered mainstream as a method by formative learning he comes to appreciate the impact of
and those of others. Simimost positivist or traditional ethnographers, yet this ap- whiteness on his own actions
[6]
employs
autoethnography to
larly,
Brent
Sykes
(2014)
proach to qualitative inquiry is rapidly increasing in popmake
meaning
of
his
identity
as
both
Native American
ularity, as can be seen by the large number of scholarly
and
caucasian.
In
his
implications,
he
challenges
higher
papers on autoethnography presented at annual conferSince autoethnography is a broad and ambiguous category that encompasses a wide array of practices (Ellingson & Ellis, 2008, pp. 449450), autoethnographies
vary in their emphasis on the writing and research process (graphy), culture (ethnos), and self (auto) (ReedDanahay, 1997, p. 2). According to Ellingson and Ellis
(2008), autoethnographers recently began to make distinction between two types of autoethnography; one is
analytic autoethnography and the other is evocative autoethnography.

2.1

Autoethnographer as a storyteller/narrator

education institutions and educators to provide spaces for data involves interpretation on the part of the researcher
learners to engage in autoethnography as a tool to pro- (Hammersley in Genzuk). However, rather than a pormote transformative learning.
trait of the Other (person, group, culture), the dierence
Another recent extension of autoethnographic method is that the researcher is constructing a portrait of the self.
involves the use of collaborative approaches to writing,
sharing, and analyzing personal stories of experience.
This approach is also labeled collaborative autobiography (Allen-Collinson & Hockey, 2001; Lapadat, 2009),
and has been used in teaching qualitative research methods to university students.
Autoethnography is also used in lm as a variant of the
standard documentary lm. It diers from the traditional
documentary lm, in that its subject is the lmmaker
himself or herself. An autoethnography typically relates
the life experiences and thoughts, views and beliefs of the
lmmaker, and as such it is often considered to be rife
with bias and image manipulation. Unlike other documentaries, autoethnographies do not usually make a claim
of objectivity. An important text on autoethnography in
lmmaking is Catherine Russells Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video (Duke UP,
1999). For Autoethnographic artists, see also Jesse Cornplanter, Kimberly Dark, Peter Pitseolak, Ernest Spybuck.
Autoethnography is being used in multiple subdisciplines
in Communication and Media Studies. For example,
Bob Krizek took an autoethnographic approach to sports
communication during the closing of Comisky Park. [7]
[8]
Tony Adams utilized autoethnography to examine gay
identity and the metaphor of coming out of the closet.
[9]
Andrew F. Herrmann examined a period of unemployment during the nancial crisis through an autoethnographic approach. [10] Autoethnographer Robyn Boylorn
examined televised media and the representations of race.
[11]
Jimmie Manning used autoethnography to examine
polymediated narrative and relationships. [12] Autoethnographic approaches are also being used in family and interpersonal communication research.[13][14][15][16][17][18]

2.1

Autoethnographer
teller/narrator

as

story-

In dierent academic disciplines (particularly communication studies and performance studies), the term autoethnography itself is contested and is sometimes used
interchangeably with or referred to as personal narrative
or autobiography. Autoethnographic methods include
journaling, looking at archival records - whether institutional or personal, interviewing ones own self, and using
writing to generate a self-cultural understandings. Reporting an autoethnography might take the form of a traditional journal article or scholarly book, performed on
the stage, or be seen in the popular press. Autoethnography can include direct (and participant) observation of
daily behavior; unearthing of local beliefs and perception and recording of life history (e.g. kinship, education, etc.); and in-depth interviewing: The analysis of

Autoethnography can also be associated with narrative


inquiry and autobiography (Marchal, 2010, p. 43) in
that it foregrounds experience and story as a meaning
making enterprise. Marchal argues that narrative inquiry can provoke identication, feelings, emotions, and
dialogue (p. 45). Furthermore, the increased focus
on incorporating autoethnography and Narrative Inquiry
into qualitative research indicates a growing concern for
how the style of academic writing informs the types of
claims made. As Laurel Richardson articulates I consider writing as a method of inquiry, a way of nding out
about a topic...form and content are inseparable (2000,
p. 923). For many researchers, experimenting with alternative forms of writing and reporting, including autoethnography, personal narrative, performative writing,
layered accounts and writing stories, provides a way to
create multiple layered accounts of a research study, creating not only the opportunity to create new and provocative claims but also the ability to do so in a compelling
manner. Ellis (2004) says that autoethnographers advocate the conventions of literary writing and expression
in that autoethnographic forms feature concrete action,
emotion, embodiment, self-consciousness, and introspection portrayed in dialogue, scenes, characterization, and
plot (p. xix).
According to Bochner and Ellis (2006), an autoethnographer is rst and foremost a communicator and a storyteller. In other words, autoethnography depicts people struggling to overcome adversity and shows people
in the process of guring out what to do, how to live,
and the meaning of their struggles (p. 111). Therefore,
according to them, autoethnography is ethical practice
and gifts that has a caregiving function (p. 111). In
essence autoethnography is a story that re-enacts an experience by which people nd meaning and through that
meaning are able to be okay with that experience.
In this storytelling process, the researcher seeks to make
meaning of a disorienting experience. A life example in
which autoethnography could be applied is the death of a
family member or someone close by. In this painful experience people often wonder how they will go about living
without this person and what it will be like. In this scenario, especially in religious homes, one often asks Why
God? thinking that with an answer as to why the person died they can go about living. Others, wanting to be
able to oer up an explanation to make the person feel
better, generally say things such as At least they are in a
better place. or God wanted him/her home.. People,
who are never really left with an explanation as to why,
generally fall back on the reason that it was their time to
go and through this somewhat explanation nd themselves able to move on and keep living life. Over time
when looking back at the experience of someone close to

3 EVALUATING AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

you dying, one may nd that through this hardship they


became a stronger more independent person, or that they
grew closer to other family members. With these realizations, the person has actually made sense of and has become ne with the tragic experience that occurred. And
through this autoethnography is performed.

Evaluating autoethnography

The main critique of autoethnography and qualitative


research in general comes from the traditional social
science methods that emphasize the objectivity of social
research. In this critique, qualitative researchers are often
called journalists, or soft scientists, and their work, including autoethnography, is termed unscientic, or only
exploratory, or entirely personal and full of bias (Denzin
& Lincoln, 1994, p. 4). As Denzin and Lincoln (1994)
argue, many quantitative researchers regard the materials
produced by the softer, interpretive methods as unreliable, impressionistic, and not objective (p. 5).
According to Marchal (2010), the early criticism of autobiographical methods in anthropology was about their
validity on grounds of being unrepresentative and lacking objectivity (p. 45). She also points out that evocative and emotional genres of autoethnography have been
criticized by mostly analytic proponents for their lack of
ethnographic relevance as a result of being too personal.
As she writes, they are criticized for being biased, navelgazing, self-absorbed, or emotionally incontinent, and for
hijacking traditional ethnographic purposes and scholarly
contributions (Marchal, 2010, p. 45).

3.1

standing of social life?


(b) Aesthetic merit. Does this
piece succeed aesthetically? Is the
text artistically shaped, satisfyingly
complex, and not boring?
(c) Reexivity. How did the author
come to write this text? How has
the authors subjectivity been both a
producer and a product of this text?
(d) Impactfullness. Does this affect me emotionally and/or intellectually? Does it generate new questions or move me to action?
(e) Expresses a reality. Does this
text embody a eshed out sense of
lived experience?
Autoethnographic manuscripts might include dramatic
recall, unusual phrasing, and strong metaphors to invite
the reader to relive events with the author. These guidelines may provide a framework for directing investigators
and reviewers alike. Further, Ellis suggests how Richardsons criteria mesh with criteria mentioned by Bochner
who describes what makes him understand and feel with
a story. (Bochner, 2000, pp. 264~266) He looks for concrete details (similar to Richardsons expression of lived
experience), structurally complex narratives (Richardsons aesthetic merit), authors attempt to dig under the
supercial to get to vulnerability and honesty (Richardsons reexivity), a standard of ethical self-consciousness
(Richardsons substantive contribution), and a moving
story (Richardsons impact) (Ellis, 2004, pp. 253~254).
3.1.1 From validity to truth

Rethinking traditional criteria: based


on criteria for evaluating qualitative As a research method that emerged from the tradition
research
of social constructionism and interpretive paradigm, au-

In her books tenth chapter, titled Evaluating and Publishing Autoethnography (pp. 252~255), Ellis (2004)
discusses how to evaluate an autoethnographic project,
based on other authors ideas about evaluating alternative
modes of qualitative research. (See the special section
in Qualitative Inquiry on Assessing Alternative Modes
of Qualitative and Ethnographic Research: How Do We
Judge? Who Judges?) She presents several criteria for
good autoethnography mentioned by Bochner (2000),
Clough (2000), Denzin (2000) and Richardson (2000),
and indicates how these ideas resonate with each other.
First, Ellis mentions Laurel Richardson (2000, pp. 15
16) who described ve factors she uses when reviewing
personal narrative papers that includes analysis of both
evaluative and constructive validity techniques. The criteria are:
(a) Substantive contribution. Does
the piece contribute to our under-

toethnography challenges the traditional social scientic


methodology that emphasizes the criteria for quality in
social research developed in terms of validity. Carolyn
Ellis writes, In autoethnographic work, I look at validity
in terms of what happens to readers as well as to research
participants and researchers. To me, validity means that
our work seeks verisimilitude; it evokes in readers a feeling that the experience described is lifelike, believable,
and possible. You also can judge validity by whether
it helps readers communicate with others dierent from
themselves or oers a way to improve the lives of participants and readers- or even your own. (Ellis, 2004, p.
124). In this sense, Ellis (2004) emphasizes the narrative
truth for autoethnographic writings.
I believe you should try to construct the
story as close to the experience as you can
remember it, especially in the initial version.
If you do, it will help you work through the
meaning and purpose of the story. But its

3.2

Benets/Concerns of autoethnography

not so important that narratives represent lives


accurately only, as Art(Arthur Bochner) argues, that narrators believe they are doing so
(Bochner, 2002, p. 86). Art believes that we
can judge one narrative interpretation of events
against another, but we cannot measure a narrative against the events themselves because the
meaning of the events comes clear only in their
narrative expression. (p.126)

told. (Stake, 1994) The focus of generalizability moves


from respondents to readers.(p.195) This generalizability through the resonance of readers lives and lived experience(Richardson, 1997) in autoethnographic work,
intends to open up rather than close down conversation
(Ellis, 2004, p. 22)

Instead, Ellis suggests to judge (autoethnographic writings) on the usefulness of the story, (Bochner, 2001)
rather than only on accuracy. (Ellis, 2004, p. 126) Art
argues that the real questions is what narratives do, what
consequences they have, to what uses they can be put.
Narrative is the way we remember the past, turn life into
language, and disclose to ourselves and others the truth
of our experiences (Bochner, 2001). In moving from
concern with the inner veridicality to outer pragmatics
of evaluating stories, Plummer also looks at uses, functions, and roles of stories, and adds that they need to have
rhetorical power enhanced by aesthetic delight (Plummer,
2001, p. 401).

Denzins important criterion is whether the work has the


possibility to change the world and make it a better place.
(Denzin, 2000, p. 256) This position ts with Clough,
who argues that good autoethnographic writing should
motivate cultural criticism. Autoethnographic writing
should be closely aligned with theoretical reection, says
Clough, so that it can serve as a vehicle for thinking new
sociological subjects and forming new parameters of the
social. (Clough, 2000, p. 290) Though Richardson and
Bochner are less overtly political than Denzin and Clough,
they indicate that good personal narratives should contribute to positive social change and move us to action.
(Bochner, 2000, p. 271)

Similarly, Laurel Richardson uses the metaphor of a crystal to deconstruct traditional validity (Richardson, 1997,
p. 92). A crystal has an innite number of shapes, dimensions and angels. It acts as a prism and changes shape, but
still has structure. Another writer, Patti Lather, proposes
counter-practices of authority that rupture validity as a
regime of truth (Lather, 1993, p .674) and lead to a critical political agenda (Olesen, 2000, p. 231). She mentions the four subtypes: ironic validity, concerning the
problems of representation; paralogical validity, which
honors dierences and uncertainties; rhizomatic validity, which seeks out multiplicity; and voluptuous validity,
which seeks out ethics through practices of engagement
and self-reexivity (Lather, 1993, pp. 685~686)" (Ellis,
2004, pp. 124~125).

The benets of autoethnography are the ways in which


research of such a personal nature might give us insight
into problems often overlooked in cultureissues such as
the nature of identity, race, sexuality, child abuse, eating
disorders, life in academia, and the like. In addition to
helping the researcher make sense of his or her individual experience, autoethnographies are political in nature
as they engage their readers in important political issues
and often ask us to consider things, or do things dierently. Chang (2008) argues that autoethnography oers
a research method friendly to researchers and readers because autoethnographic texts are engaging and enable researchers to gain a cultural understanding of self in relation to others, on which cross-cultural coalition can be
built between self and others.

3.1.2

From generalizability to resonance

With regard to the term of generalizability, Ellis (2004)


points out that autoethnographic research seeks generalizability not just from the respondents but also from the
readers. Ellis says, I would argue that a storys generalizability is always being tested not in the traditional way through random samples of respondents, but
by readers as they determine if a story speaks to them
about their experience or about the lives of others they
know. Readers provide theoretical validation by comparing their lives to ours, by thinking about how our lives
are similar and dierent and the reasons why. Some
stories inform readers about unfamiliar people or lives.
We can ask, after Stake, does the story have naturalistic generalization? meaning that it brings felt news
from one world to another and provides opportunities
for the reader to have vicarious experience of the things

3.2 Benets/Concerns of autoethnography

Also, autoethnography as a genre frees us to move beyond


traditional methods of writing, promoting narrative and
poetic forms, displays of artifacts, photographs, drawings, and live performances (Cons, p. 449). Denzin says
authoethnography must be literary, present cultural and
political issues, and articulate a politics of hope. The literary criteria he mentions are covered in what Richardson
advocates: aesthetic value (Richardson, 2000, p. 15). Ellis elaborates her idea in autoethnography as good writing
that through the plot, dramatic tension, coherence, and
verisimilitude, the author shows rather than tells, develops characters and scenes fully, and paints vivid sensory
experiences.
While advocating autoethnography for its value, some
researchers argue that there are also several concerns
about autoethnography. Chang (2008) warns autoethnographers of pitfalls that they should avoid in doing autoethnography: "(1) excessive focus on self in isolation
from others; (2) overemphasis on narration rather than

3 EVALUATING AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

analysis and cultural interpretation; (3) exclusive reliance


on personal memory and recalling as a data source; (4)
negligence of ethical standards regarding others in selfnarratives; and (5) inappropriate application of the label
autoethnography (p. 54).

2000; Holman Jones, 2005; Ellis & Bochner, 2003).


Practice-based quality is based in the lived research experience itself rather than in its formal evidencing per se.
Bochner (2000) says:

Also some qualitative researchers have expressed their


concerns about the worth and validity of autoethnography. Robert Krizek (2003) contributed a chapter of
'Ethnography as the Excavation of 'Personal Narrative'
(pp. 141152)to the book of Expressions of Ethnography in which he expresses concern about the possibility
for autoethnography to devolve into narcissism. Krizek
goes on to suggest that autoethnography, no matter how
personal, should always connect to some larger element
of life.

Self-narratives . . . are not so much academic as they are existential, reecting a desire to grasp or seize the possibilities of meaning, which is what gives life its imaginative and
poetic qualities . . . a poetic social science
does not beg the question of how to separate
good narrativization from bad . . . [but] the
good ones help the reader or listener to understand and feel the phenomena under scrutiny.
(p. 270)

3.3

Finally, in addition to this anti-criteria stance of some

Controversy of evaluating autoethnog- researchers, some scholars have suggested that the criraphy
teria used to judge autoethnography should not neces-

There are several ows of critiques with regard to evaluating autoethnographical works grounded in interpretive
paradigm. First, some researchers have criticized that
within qualitative research there are those that dismiss
anything but positivist notions of validity and reliability.
(see Doloriert and Sambrook, 2011, pp. 593595) For
example, Schwandt (1996, p. 60) argues that some social
researchers have come to equate being rational in social
science with being procedural and criteriological. Building on quantitative foundations, Lincoln and Guba (1985)
translate quantitative indicators into qualitative quality
indicators, namely: credibility (parallels internal validity), transferability (parallels external validity), dependability(parallels reliability), and conrmability (parallels
objectivity and seeks to critically examine whether the researcher has acted in good faith during the course of the
research). Smith (1984) and Smith and Heshusius (1986)
critique these qualitative translations and warn that the
claim of compatibility (between qualitative and quantitative criteria) cannot be sustained and by making such
claims researches are in eect closing down the conversation. Smith (1984, p. 390) points out that
What is clear . . . is that the assumptions of
interpretive inquiry are incompatible with the
desire for foundational criteria. How we are
to work out this problem, one way or another,
would seem to merit serious attention.
Secondly, some other researchers questions the need
for specic criteria itself. Bochner (2000) and Clough
(2000) both are concerned that too much emphasis on
criteria will move us back to methodological policing
and will takes us away from a focus on imagination,
ethical issues in autographic work, and creating better
ways of living. (Bochner, 2000a, p. 269) The autoethnographer internally judges its quality. Evidence
is tacit,individualistic, and subjective (see Richardson,

sarily be the same as traditional criteria used to judge


other qualitative research investigations (Garratt & Hodkinson, 1999; Holt, 2003; Sparkes, 2000). They argue that autoethnography has been received with a signicant degree of academic suspicion because it contravenes certain qualitative research traditions. The controversy surrounding autoethnography is in part related to
the problematic exclusive use of the self to produce research (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). This use of self as the
only data source in autoethnography has been questioned
(see, for example, Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Sparkes,
2000). Accordingly, autoethnographies have been criticized for being too self-indulgent and narcissistic (Coffey, 1999). Sparkes (2000) suggested that autoethnography is at the boundaries of academic research because
such accounts do not sit comfortably with traditional criteria used to judge qualitative inquiries(Holt, 2003, p.
19). Holt (2003) associates this problem with this problem as two crucial issues in 'the fourth moment of qualitative research' Denzin & Lincoln (2000) presented; the
dual crises of representation and legitimation. The crisis
of representation refers to the writing practices (i.e., how
researchers write and represent the social world). Additionally, verication issues relating to methods and representation are (re)considered as problematic (Marcus &
Fischer, 1986). The crisis of legitimation questions traditional criteria used for evaluating and interpreting qualitative research, involving a rethinking of terms such as
validity, reliability, and objectivity (Holt, 2003, p. 19).
Holt (2003) says:
Much like the autoethnographic texts
themselves, the boundaries of research and
their maintenance are socially constructed
(Sparkes, 2000). In justifying autoethnography as proper research, it should be noted that
ethnographers have acted autobiographically
before, but in the past they may not have been
aware of doing so, and taken their genre for

7
granted (Coey, 1999). Autoethnographies
may leave reviewers in a perilous position. [...]
the reviewers were not sure if the account was
proper research (because of the style of representation), and the verication criteria they
wished to judge this research by appeared to be
inappropriate. Whereas the use of autoethnographic methods may be increasing, knowledge of how to evaluate and provide feedback
to improve such accounts appears to be lagging. As reviewers begin to develop ways in
which to judge autoethnography, they must resist the temptation to seek universal foundational criteria lest one form of dogma simply
replaces another (Sparkes, 2002b, p. 223).
However, criteria for evaluating personal writing have barely begun to develop (DeVault,
1997). (p. 26)

See also
Layered account

References

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6 Further reading
Allen-Collinson, J., & Hockey, J. (2001). Runners Tales: Autoethnography, injury and narrative.
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Blumenfeld-Jones, D. (1995).Blumenfeld-Jones, D.
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Bochner, A. P. (2000). Criteria against ourselves.
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[8] Krizek, R. L. (1992b). Remembrances and expectations:


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Bochner, A. P. (2001). Narratives virtues. Qualitative Inquiry 7, 131-157.

[9] Adams, T. E. (2011). Narrating the closet: An autoethnography of same-sex attraction. Walnut Creek, CA:
Left Coast Press, Inc.

Bochner, A. (2014). Coming to narrative: A personal history of paradigm change in the human sciences. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

[10] Herrmann, A. F. (2012). I know Im unlovable: Desperation, dislocation, despair, and discourse on the academic
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Boyd, D. (2008). Autoethnography as a tool for


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6 FURTHER READING
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10
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Autoethnography Bibliography @ h2o playlist

6 FURTHER READING

11

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minimally).

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