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.
All these girls need to dump their boyfriends #DIGC330
— Charisse Adair (@CharisseAdair) August 10, 2017
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.
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>.