Blogs can be described as “living texts”. They talk about the outside compared to journals which turn inward on more personal topics. Ellis then goes into describing the multi-voiced/mixed genre. This genre is very similar to co-constructed narratives. Arts-based writing works to draw an emotional response or inspire the viewer. These mold art and story into one.
Is There a Downside to Doing Autoethnographic Research? : Interview with
• Penny arrives at my home
o They greet and gifts are brought as a sign of good will
o They go to the library, asks if she’s ok with dogs
ß She’s ok with dogs
o Two coffees (getting comfortable)
o Conversation before interview:
ß Being polite
ß Making her feel secure
ß “I’d like to talk about your response to being a character, how
you respond to the story, and whether you want me to change
or omit anything in the text”
Reactions to the Book and to Being a Character
• Penny would see herself being written about and be surprised that it was
her, she could barely recognize herself (the interviewer is surprised by this
reaction). It brought back memories of school.
• She would say how she could hear the familiar voices in her writing, she
would remember past events very clearly
o The interviewer want’s it like that
ß Ask if there’s anything she was uncomfortable with?
• The name of a person (Don) who she says should be
changed to hide it from his colleagues
o Penny was accurately depicted and was surprised because their was
so much about her, but she was ok with this.
o Penny’s papers where used in the work of the interviewer, they were
never published but some ended up in the interviewers book
ß These were usually papers that wrote about abuse
• She once inspired another woman to write about her
Experiencing the Moment
• Her papers were rejected because they were not traditional enough
o She would not stand to reduce her work; she pushed hard for her PHD
but it was not published.
o She stopped writing to live a more untraditional life in her
relationship (cooking, sports etc.)
o She wants the interviewer to finish her book
Revisiting the CASA Story
• “What about the CASA story? I ask”
o Penny had been abused by Don (last relationship)
ß She did not want to put herself in a situation where she felt she
didn’t have any control.
ß She has had fantasies of being with Don again, and has wanted
to get in contact, but CASA says this is not the right way of
• The interviewer takes the side of CASA “once an abuser
always an abuser”, better safe than hurt or dead
• Penny responds that she needs a man in her life, this
is why some women prefer having a bad man than
nothing at all
ß “Did CASA open up your mind in any other way?”
• She describes her part in here abuse, she saw herself as
taking agency. She would not take the abuse from Don
anymore. She can see how other women might blame
o Autoethnographies are meant to help people
Exploring Autoethnography and “Real Life”
• “What role do you think autoethnography has played in your life? Do you
have any regrets?”
o It was therapeutic and positive for penny
o Helped face problems with Don
o Although she became self centered and enmeshed
ß Don Actually sent texts of his feelings towards her and how he
beat her (the abuser helping write the text)
ß The interviewer starts thinking about Penny’s feelings and if
they were correctly taken into account
ß Penny: “My thinking was that this was research, not life, so I
didn’t worry much about emotions”
• The interviewer thinks that not stuffing down those
emotions is actually good research
• Feelings were put aside to do research and Richard (the
man who is with Penny was hurt during the process)
o “Do you think that is why he left?”
ß She says that she doesn’t think so,
supposedly they were going different
• She does not regret doing the
research that probably drove him
away. She values her education
too much and Richard was always
to private and even if she tried he
wouldn’t have let her become to
ß “ Do you have any advice for autoethnographers?”
• “When they get gung-ho about exploring their own
lives and the lives of intimate others, they consider that,
although it is research for them, it is not necessarilyresearch for others-it’s their lives. They should make
sure they’re being sensitive to other people”
o “Any research, whether it’s autoethnographic or
not, is self absorbing”
ß People respect research because it’s for education, and by
definition it must be positive.
• When you add the authoethnographic element, there’s
potential for more pain.
o One usually writes about people who are around
you, and these might have problems with what
you are doing, but don’t interfere. Then you have
all the idiosyncrasies of individual personalitie
After Leigh Berger’s wedding, Carolyn Ellis pulls her aside to conduct an interview, asking questions on various subtopics of autoethnography. Ellis begins by asking Berger her initial reaction to Ellis’s autoethnography, as Berger was a character in the story. Berger describes the uncomfortable feeling of being under the spotlight with strangers, or the readers, analyzing her; however, a feeling of fascination overcomes the discomfort as she gains cognizance of her own characters’ emotions. She describes the “authored” to feel “a little wary about how they will be portrayed, but curious about how they are seen” (315). Berger continues to commend Ellis on her accurate description of her, as well as enlightening her on some personality traits that she was not aware of, such as her giggling habit.
As the interview progresses, Berger elaborates on the impact autoethnography has had on her. It reignited the passion and excitement she once had for creative writing that is still incorporated in her current writing. Ellis and Berger then talk about the writing process. Many writers are hindered when making frequent halts in their work to perfect a sentence, attempting to craft the final paper in the first try; however, both Ellis and Berger concurred that writing continuously will be more beneficial to the majority, regardless of how many drafts are needed prior to the final product.
Constructing an autoethnography requires introspective thinking. Berger describes how it became routine to be introspective. When Ellis questions if introspection might be harmful to the health, Berger replied: "Sometimes I overanalyze things, even in my relationship with Jonathan, rather than letting them be and understanding that’s the way they are. I analyze what I feel, what exactly he said to make me feel this way, and what I said back. I think sometimes that can get kind of annoying and unhealthy" (319).
Rather than sensationalizing one’s life, an autoethnography should provide a “sacred process of healing and understanding” (320) to the author. In recent works of student autoethnographies, Ellis speaks of the lack of analysis, a point that is highly emphasized in her class. She wants the author to write as a survivor of the event and the by-products of it. What was the resolution? How did it provide therapeutic relief and/or closure? Where are the dynamics of the journey? Most sensationalized stories contain many details but are missing the critical components of change.
This section discusses ways in which to take notes on one’s own experiences. One way in which to take such notes is to write about what took place chronologically in time throughout the experience and to then read other people’s stories about their similar experiences, comparing them to your own account. Doing so helps to reflect on the significance of certain commonalities found among your own account and those of others, and may also remind you of things you have overlooked in your recollection of the experience. Since you can only write about an experience after the experience has already taken place, it is impossible to capture the “truth” of that experience. However, there are ways to bring your recollection closer to the “truth”. One way you can do this is by taking notes on the experience essentially throughout its occurrence. Another way to do so is to write about the experience after its occurrence (regardless of the amount of time that has passed) by mentally putting yourself back into that experience emotionally. Doing so can help you discover the significance of your experience in the present, even though the experience took place in the past. Ideally, you could take notes on an experience as it occurs, and then take notes on it again sometime afterwards. By comparing the two sets of notes, you may be able to get a clearer idea of the experience’s meaning and significance than you would get by only taking one set of notes at a particular time.
P.269 - 283
The characters want to get the best research from a domestic abuse shelter and thus came to the realization that they would co - construct stories and volunteer at the shelter. One of the researchers is being interviewed in front of an audience by two of her peers. The interviewee was a former abuse victim. The interview is shaky and several of the shelter's violations were violated. The researchers come to the realization that their methods and the shelter's methods collide and that it will take collaborative research to bridge the gap and get the best research.
In order to write an effective autoethnography you must be truthful, vulnerable, evocative, and therapeutic.
It can be therapeutic for yourself, your readers, and/or your participants by being open and approachable.
Researchers should be able to form friendships and support others.
If you let yourself be vulnerable during interviews it becomes easier to understand your participants and yourself.
By making your writing evocative, your reader is immersed into the situations presented and can experience the conflicts and feelings.
To make your writing evocative use conversation, sights, sounds, smells, and flashbacks to show more than tell.
Autoethnographies are not linear, but they are created in a logical way. When creating your autoethnography you must take into account background history. Sometimes someone cannot understand “x” without knowing something else that is not presented. This is why it is important to consider all different aspects of a topic before beginning the project. Ellis explains the inevitability of making mistakes and she believes it is an important part of learning. When writing a personal narrative adding emotion is a critical component. As the interviewer you have to have a balance of being reflexive and responsive as well as listening to the interviewee or interviewees to avoid getting fully in the way of their storytelling. There are different types of validity regarding interviews and accounts. Ironic validity concerns the problems of representation and paralogical validity deals with concerns and uncertainties By relying on memory and editing the context, ethnographers tend to put words into the interviewee’s mouths. Also, editing may play down the importance of a significant event. Ellis suggests to judge on the usefulness of a story rather than the accuracy. At the end of the chapter Judy, one of Ellis’s students, confronts Ellis around writing about the occurring demise of her father. Ellis found a connection to Judy’s story and understood how writing can feel like an escape from writing about the topic she is writing about. A story involving death is one that many people can associate with.
This section discusses whether the writer want's to tell the reader how to analyze his / her writing Also they talk about the different modes to be used to publish their work .
The characters in the class discuss when does one know when they have finished writing their story to which they come to a conclusion is that " a writing if treated like an art never finishes” .They also talk about the number of drafts that need to be made before ones final work.
The next section of the text shows the discussion between carolyn and laurel over dinner .Carolyn tells laurel about a hereditary problem that she has which leads to her eyelids dropping making her look old and tired .They then go on to discuss whether she should get them fixed and a thin line distinction between a plastic surgery and a treatment done for medical reasons that will lead to the same results.
This section discusses the meaning and role of a mentor in an auto-ethnographic project. Ellis discusses how it involves being a parent, counselor, and academic advisor. In addition, she describes how her and Art came together due to similar interests and thoughts about the social sciences, and how they formed their life together surrounding their devotion to their "academic children" and their work together in auto-ethnography.
The first section of the reading concerned the art of writing and how some are natural writers and others need to constantly work to be decent writers. Ellis talks about her struggle to try and get the “soul” out of these average writers and the challenges that come with it. The latter part of the chapter dealt with writing about topics that are deeply personal and tragic. For example, abuse, the loss of a father, being biracial, not being able to have children, and many more similar topics. Ellis is dealing with the fact that it is hard to communicate the students emotions honestly on the page because they are so profound and people shy away from talking about personal topics.
Autoethnography Approaches (pg 45-51)
This section explores the many different methods that can be used when writing ethnographies. Most of these approaches, such as personal narrative, focus on how the researcher connects to the group and uses his or her personal experiences to convey the story. There are a few methods, such as contingent autoethnography, where the researcher does not discover anything about themselves and strictly focuses on the interviewees. This section is helpful if you would like to put a name on the specific type of ethnography you are conducting.
Title: Straying away from autoethnography: Interview with Hector
In this chapter, the author mainly wrote about her interview with Hector, one of her students and one of the characters in her book. Hector uses term such as “tough” and “difficult” to describe his feeling when reading his own figure in Ellis’ book, and expresses his understanding of autoethnography to be personal, conceptual, critical, and theoretical. He also talked about his protective feeling towards his mother and his worries of Ellis’ exposing his mother in this book. In the end, Hector said that although he had second thought about learning autoethnography at first, he now will embrace this method of writing and keep on doing autoethnographies along his way.
Class Nine: Final Projects(219-248)
In this class, seven students presented their work in front of the whole class in various ways. Penny, the first one, elaborately and emotionally depicted her life under abuse by dividing it into several scenes. Her vivid description evoked everyone’s sympathy. Then Jack, digging deeply into many spheres of cross-racial relationship, made interactive interviews along with his own experience. Another student, Laura filled the stories by narrating her suffering experience with endoscopy and cancer, aligned with others’ stories of illness. Similar to the previous one, Valerie also shared her experience as a breast cancer survivor, which is life-change but exhausting. Inspired by Valerie’s story of illness, Judy came up and shared her mental and emotional status during her father’s dying, by combining her journals with the exchanging emails between Carolyn and her. Next was Leigh, who expressed her confusion and struggle among her own beliefs and constantly probing for self-identification. The last but not least was Hector. He explored the bicultural identification by assembling different short stories. At the end, the author represented a life story of her husband and her to describe the connection between work and life.
In this section, Carolyn Ellis discusses the evolution of her term autoethnography and some of its applications in real life. Amidst the anecdotal tales of her nascent relationship with Art, she explains that the term “autoethnography” went through many stages, adjusting to the class of people who Ellis was lecturing at the time. She began calling it “systematic sociological introspection” and “emotional sociology” when she attempted to market the biographical idea to social scientists, but as the target audience, so did the term. Ellis also points out that some of the best work she has read and written came from a place of darkness and moroseness. Although this is not necessary, Ellis claims that understandably, the most personal and heartfelt tales come from the darker sides of life than the lighter.
Friendship Interlude – Artful Auto Ethnography
This interlude presents Ellis’ interview with Karen Scott-Hoy who owns the painting called “auto ethnography” that is also used as the cover for this book. The author composed this interview in third person voice using the transcripts from the conversation she had with Scott-Hoy. Ellis feels that the painting is now theirs emphasizing the connection that both of them established to the painting. They talk about the chain of events that led to the creation of this painting. Karen, before she gained her PhD, was a student willing to write about her experiences as a health worker in Vanuatu in the traditional ethnography format. As soon as she found out about Carolyn’s autoethnography workshop, she decided to attend it particularly because she wanted to include herself and write narratively – techniques promoted by Carolyn. The workshop gave her the inspiration she needed and thus she talked to one of her professors about writing a different thesis using what she learned in the workshop. The professor suggested her to paint as she mentioned she painted during the conversation. This is how she finished her first painting and sent a photo of the painting to Carloyn. She liked the painting so much that she decided to use it as a cover to her book. Throughout the interview Karen describes her painting. The partly clothed woman on the painting is her and there is a partial reflection of her back in the mirror behind her. This reflection cannot be seen by her, but by the audience watching her. Karen goes on explaining how she divided the background of the picture and how the face divides into two faces: The self and other.
p. 201-206 Reciting Poetry
This section discusses the option of writing an autoethnography in the form of poetry instead of prose. Poetry gives the author a chance to describe lived experiences and speech in more realistic format. Poetry also helps us become empathetic when we write and read it. However there are some difficulties when writing an autoethnography through poetry. Poetry isn't taken as seriously in the social sciences. Social sciences describe and analyze while poetry is filled with symbolism and metaphor. However, poetry is still an option for any autoethnography.
p. 206-212 Performing Autoethnography
Performance is another way to express an autoethnography. It can be a very effective way to move the audience and help them truly understand the story that is being told. They get to visualize and experience what they see instead of simply viewing it in text. Often time, performance autoethnography tells gives a voice to a person or group who consider themselves voiceless or is not comfortable expressing themselves through conventional means. It makes topics more real and easy to discuss. However many shy from it because of its nontraditional requirements.
Authoethnography: Definition and History (Pages 37-41)
Basically in this part of the chapter, the word Autoethnography is defined as writing about something personal and its relationship to culture. It’s also an autobiographical genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness. Also, the term Autoethnography was first used in 1975 by the anthropologist Karl Heider, but David Hayano is usually credited as the originator of the term.
These pages consisted of comparing and contrasting different forms of research and how combining two forms can lead to fulfilling one’s research to its potential. By combining the tools of ethnography and qualitative research, the potential for future knowledge and research is boundless. This is because both approaches to research: qualitative research and ethnography provide and cover a great number of fields. While some may believe that when doing research you should stand back, observe and remain impartial, however, the interactions between the researcher and what he is researching may lead to new discoveries that would have otherwise never been discovered. By meshing personal experiences and listening to what others have to say will have a very powerful and significant outcome.
In this section, the author mainly talks about some creative analytic practices( "CAP") in ethnography and suggests that stories themselves are theoretical and analytic. And then she illustrates three ways analysis takes place in narrative, which are "narrative analysis", "thematic analysis of narrative" and "structural analysis of narrative". The first one is "narrative analysis". With narrative analysis, people should think with a story and experience it as affecting their own life. They take the story as already complete and don't go beyond it. However, with the latter two approaches to analysis, people should think about a story, analyze it and try to find larger categories, themes or patterns. Furthermore, the author then suggests that these three approaches can becombined, which means people can either focus more on telling a story or on analyzing or theorizing a story. And all these approaches to analyzing personal narratives allows autoethnography to be more akin to humanities than social science. And personal narratives has been profliterating into humanities, since they reflect the cultural border crossings.
In auto ethnographic projects it is very essential to put our selves in to the research that we are doing. In the section of page 86-97 it talks about “Empathy In Researching Illness, Dying, and Medical Terms”, “Cross Racial Relationships,” and, “Discovering Messianic Judaism and Experiencing the Spiritual”. The empathy when researching a person depends on how much the case is worse, for example, if the person has cancer and has three months to live, the research gets deeper. The cross-racial relationship and discovering Judaism talks about how in a research it is important to have uniqueness. Uniqueness in relationships can be a beautiful research to do while the relationship encounters lots of two different cultures. Racial relationships can be a heavy topic but if it is not stereotypical it is a good topic to go over. The discovering Judaism part tries to juxtapose different lives of people with same religions and spiritual lives.
In Class Ten, Ellis discusses evaluating autoethnographic projects and getting them published.
When it comes to criteria for evaluation, too much emphasis on them may lead to methodological policing and criteria are found rather than made. Instead of laying out a list of criteria, Ellis applies standards when evaluating. For instance, she wants to be emotionally aroused, focuses much on ethical issues of writing about others and the author’s sense of self. As for publication, on the other hand, whether the journals will be accepted largely depends on the editor’s beliefs. In order to reach a large general audience, a trade press is necessary. In the end of the chapter, through talking with Penny about her rejections, Ellis also reflects on autoethnographic writing and realizes that rewrites, despite the advantages, can also place the author in danger of losing the story.
The chapter describes the author’s thoughts and considerations while writing the ethnography. The author mentions different aspects of her writing, such as getting consent from the real-life people she included in her story about what she writes about them, writing in dialogue to make the piece interesting and captivating to read, citing sources easily by having a character read off notes in the story, developing a plot in the story, accurately portraying each real-life character and their personalities, and the revising process her work undergoes. Ellis reveals the similarities autoethnographists have with novelists. She describes ethnography as “interpretive,” and therefore, “fiction.” Ethnographers pick and choose what they want to use from their real life in writing, but they base it on those real experiences and add various other details and segments that are fictional to portray their plot in the best manner.
Pages 31-35: Introduction to Autoethnography
Autoethnography (auto for self and ethno for culture) is a form of ethnography written about the self as an evocative, unfolding, scenic, and dialogic plot. People tend to write and share such stories to challenge the construction of meaning automatically put together by one-self. The stories can be highly personal with an understanding that it could evoke a variety of emotions from the audience at the expense of the author.
The ethnographic I
In these pages Carolyn Ellis writes about her conversation with Judy Perry, her former student. Ellis takes on a didactic/interactive interview with Perry as they talk about Judy Perry’s reaction (comments/concerns) regarding her character in the book. They were both very understanding and friendly through there conversations. Judy was extremely okay with, if not honored to be a character in the story. Judy seemed less worried about revealing too much about her personal life, such as the fight amongst her siblings, as she did about the truth of her character to be prevalent. Overall, both Ellis and Judy were able to find completely stable and common ground as to Judy’s character in the story. I think this was mainly due to two factors: 1) Ellis took into account all moral and ethical aspects when writing about her characters and 2) Judy, being a former student of Ellis, understood that a controversial story is better any day than a flat, boring story. The both knew that no reader would be interested in or believe that all of Ellis’ characters were perfect students.
A Summary of Pages 24-26
In the sub-class titled 'Contextualizing Autoethnography within Ethnography', Carolyn Ellis makes an effort to distinguish the meanings of the seemingly interchangeable terms 'qualitative methods', 'ethnography' and 'fieldwork'. Ellis begins with qualitative methods and describes it as the process of developing a better understanding for the people we investigate. She considers ethnography to be a term that includes not only the study of people or culture through observation, but also the results of those studies. Lastly, she defines fieldwork as any method of study that gathers information. She lists examples such as casual conversation and asking questions that would fall under the fieldwork umbrella.
Ellis also recognizes the broad spectrum of research perspectives and describes which perspective is most effective in ethnography. She identifies a grey area in between the concrete, science perspective and the more elusive arts perspective. Instead of these, she suggests ethnography studies be conducted with a realistic point of view which would allow for a more holistic analysis of the culture or person being studied.
Autoethnography Summary Pages 143-155
Carolyn takes Judy into her office to ask Judy the resent news of her dad who is being hospitalized. Judy says she wouldn’t be sad if her dad chose to stop living, because he’s in so much pain, but she decided if he wanted to live, she would be willing to be there for him, too.
Carolyn has published her story “Maternal Connections” without her mother giving consent, let alone giving Carolyn her consent. Carolyn asks her students how they feel about the secrecy and if they respond differently to the story knowing that Carolyn’s mother hadn’t read it. They discuss the importance of the subject’s consent, but discuss how a reader might not necessarily understand why some unattractive/embarrassing details are essential and cannot be worked around.
Then the class raises the question: “Should we write things about people that will make them upset with us, things we wouldn’t tell them face to face?” They answer through examples of Carolyn’s works that have offended the subjects and come to a conclusion that its important to not assume superiority and that each case is different but its important to take never intend harm. Friends, family members and loved ones should have extra consideration. In addition, the class discusses that sometimes personal experience narrows our vision and we need to be conscience about that.
This was a spring 2015 forum. We mostly used our Facebook group for discussion forum.