There’s no ‘me’ in ethnography until you add ‘auto’: an understanding of autoethnography

Autoethnography as Carolyn Ellis et al. (2011) describes, is a methodological approach to research that analyses personal experience to understand cultural experience. To further specifically define, Ellis cuts down the word ‘autoethnography’ by splitting the word in three and explaining each part. ‘Auto’ Ellis clarifies, is from personal experience, ‘ethno’ is to understand cultural experience and ‘graphy’ is the approach to research and writing that describes and analyses (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005).

Previously I wrote a blog post on ethnography and my account of Gojira (1958). Here I spoke about my cultural background and how I made sense of the Japanese culture by reflecting on my personal experiences. I think I had this wrong. This is autoethnography, when I reflect on my own experiences to understand and make a connection with another culture. Ethnography however, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences” (Oxford University Press, 2017). Essentially, ethnography is researching a culture from afar, without personal involvement. This for some reason took me a while to grasp, but I understand it now. There’s no ‘me’ in ethnography until you add ‘auto’.

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Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at:

‘Ethnography’ 2017, in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, viewed 18 September 2017,

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