While the term autoethnography is new to me, as I read further into Ellis’ work Autoethnography: An Overview I realised that I have sought out this kind of research subconsciously for a long time to be able to understand cultures that are very different from my own. Autoethnography is a combination of autobiography and ethnography. The combination of the two allow for a culture to be experienced and analysed through personal and interpersonal experiences. Ellis describes how autoethnographers select epiphanies that could only stem from being immersed in a culture and this is what differentiates autoethnography from other methods of research.
Recently I delved into various documentaries and books about North Korea to learn about the country, and more specifically, to try and gain an understanding of how the people of North Korea view the world and their own lives. The most engaging and eye opening of these were the ones that gave first-hand accounts of their experience and expressed their ideas and views about what they were experiencing. Essentially, these epiphanies are what connect us with a culture that others might not be able to experience first-hand. This particular series by Vice is one that engaged with the experience of the North Korean culture to present what they found and how it made them feel from a Westerners point of view.
Autoethnography doesn’t play by a set criteria making it more of a creative process than a scientific one. However, when it comes to understanding cultures a creative understanding allows the audience to connect more with the research. Ellis (2011) states that when using autoethnography the most important questions are –
Who reads our work?
How are they affected by it?
How does it keep a conversation going?
By answering these questions, autoethnographers set their own criteria based on the individual research. While autoethnography can be considered unreliable to some I think in ways it creates more value than traditional research through its emotional connections. Comparing different accounts and different research will help in gaining a holistic view of a culture. I am looking forward to engaging with autoethnography through my own project and allowing myself to let go of the objective method to research that I have become accustom to and explore my personal experiences.
ELLIS, Carolyn; ADAMS, Tony E.; BOCHNER, Arthur P.. Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, nov. 2010. ISSN 1438-5627. Available at: <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>