Auto|Ethno|Graphy: Me|Myself|(and) I

Being accelerated in English in high school, it was constantly drilled into me to critically reflect on material without divulging too much into my own personal, cultural and social persona; that is, without using the terms ‘me’, ‘myself’, and ‘I’. And now to be studying a subject that encourages self-reflexivity through autoethnography, I was initially feeling overwhelmed to go against everything I had been taught in school.

Autoethnography, according to Ellis et al, is a non-traditional approach to research and writing that ‘seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Essentially, it is to consciously regard your personal and social experiences in order to create a deeper cultural understanding. This creates more meaningful research and production, and as Ellis et al notes, ‘acknowledges subjectivity and emotionality’.

It is arguable that most people already use their own narratives to find familiarities in texts, with their subconscious conducting methods of autoethnography. For example, when watching Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 Japanese anime, Akira, this week, I often found myself looking to the cultural dynamics of the girls in the film; namely, their depiction, treatment, and relationships. From my own social and personal understanding and values, I felt like these young girls were in deeply toxic environments and this portrayal went unquestioned within the film’s universe. I was then able to reflect on and critique aspects of this treatment in our modern society. By making these connections and analysing them, we are able to further question the subject matter that we consume and create.

giphy1

((Terrible!!))

This hybridity of autobiography and ethnography further breaks the limitations of traditional research as a method of overcoming adversity and giving a voice to the experiences of those who may not usually share a mainstream research platform. This is because by opening up our research pools, we are able to draw in multiple insights; a multitude of researchers, values, beliefs, experiences, traditions and backgrounds.

All autoethnographic research, however, stems from personal epiphanies. Analysing these epiphanies brings the researcher closer to creating content for others so they may experience similar epiphanies. For example, one of my own personal epiphanies flourished when I was seventeen years old. Being half-Filipina, half-Irish, I struggled all my life to find a culture to completely fit into, with elements of both cultures not being completely accepting of mixed-race individuals. During one of my trips to the Philippines I met other half-Filipino people and watched the content that they created on social media, and this encouraged my own self-acceptance and desire to create a platform that embraced the intersectionality of both Western and Asian cultures; thus creating my Youtube channel, Tagalog Tuesdays.

I look forward to delving deeper into this new research approach, and treating the narcissist in me, whilst also finding the capability to allow others to consider their own experiences.

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>.

Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self ReflexiveAuto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3. <http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/IDSC10/Readings/Positionality/auto-eth.pdf>.

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7 comments

  1. This subject’ll do that to you. At uni, you’ll often find yourself being encouraged to forget everything you learnt at High School. By the way, did you know that just by writing this post, you’ve already engaged in autoethnography! Crazy right! I look forward to seeing what you produce on your YouTube channel! In regards to Akira, I very much agree on the treatment of women in that film. Leaves a lot to be desired!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You go into great detail about how the Ellis reading made sense to you in your own personal context. Certainly someone with a cultural background stemming from two countries would understand the need to become fully immersed within a culture to fully understand it. However, I guess the only thing you need be concerned about is balancing the rigorous research, with your own personal epiphanies about a culture, something that even Ellis mentioned is a thin line for autoethnographers to walk. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=uadCDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA16&lpg=PA16&dq=how+to+balance+autoethnography&source=bl&ots=TscDFBJ0jU&sig=sP8cNjQspwGiGkr4ApGmFW-BtmE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjhoMXjhtvVAhVHVbwKHRyDC9IQ6AEIMzAD#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20balance%20autoethnography&f=false Here you can read about that balance, and how identity intersectionalities can shape you as a researcher.

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  3. I’m finding myself being challenged in regards to what’s been drilled into my head from high school too! But in that same sense i’ve found it incredibly interesting to learn a new method of writing and research. Great post! I particularly liked how you engaged with your own personal understanding and examples (which i guess is the point now). You’ve explained the concept of autoethnography as discussed by the Ellis reading really effectively and engaged in ideas that could easily help someone unfamiliar with the topic understand what is being presented. Can’t wait to see what else is to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, great post!
    I especially enjoyed your suggestion that although we’ve been schooled to ‘remove’ ourselves from the analyses we undertake, we still have a tendency to do it subconsciously. I suppose that this will be the challenge for both of us for the duration of this subject; to draw the subconscious out of our minds and use it effectively in research. Here is a poem I found which explores the relationship between our conscious and subconscious (https://nevine-sultan.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/autoethnography.html). Remember that autoethnography is often a hybrid between art and science, so don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with artistic, fictional works this as you commence your research project.
    Claire 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Its hard to unlearn a skill drilled into you, right?!
    It’s comforting to know that my existential thoughts about how i fit into the world will be nurtured by this methodology. From the perspective of a student, one with very little resources beyond what I can find on library catalogues, Autoethnography is a comforting research approach. Because we are drawing on our own experiences, much like you did with your viewing of Akira, there is going to be ease of access to data. However, this affordance of data from a personal place has made me think that difficulties in drawing conclusions may arise. This article briefly touches on this, but if you are like me, it will probably leave you with questions as well. http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-46412013000200010

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  6. I can see your struggle to find a culture to completely fit into, especially as a half-Filipino, half-Irish and growing up in Australia. I agree with your point of the portrayal of girls in Akira, unfortunately, this kind of portrayal is pretty popular in manga and anime, somehow, portraying women as sex objects has become a culture and be responded enthusiastically (mostly by young people). As an Asian, this always makes me feel like I don’t belong to the community, specifically, the generations I grew up with. Your idea of the Youtube platform encourage me to learn about the underlying reason between myself and the rest of them. Love to see your upcoming works!

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