Autoethnography, as stated by Ellis (2011) is “an autobiographical genre of writing that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural.”
I think this is the absolute best way to summarise autoethnography, and I think I have achieved this in my project. By relaying through self-reflexivity, the multiple accounts of my personal experience with kawaii metal, then critically analysing those experiences and subsequent epiphanies. I hope to have brought a critical understanding of the genre to those that have read my posts, and listened to my podcasts.
As I stated in my blog post ‘Narrative Truth’, my goal has been to walk that knife’s edge “…between rigorous, theoretical, analytical science, and therapeutic, personal, and social experience-writing.” Therefore connecting my personal experience to the culture of kawaii metal, and enabling those who engage with my work to gain a deeper understanding of kawaii metal.
However, I also agree with Foley (2002) in his criticism of the practise of autoethnography. Foley advocated for a more reflexive epistemological and narrative approach to the research methodology. He believes that by doing this, creating more of a story than a research paper, it would make autoethnographies more engaging and a more common genre of research. Which could contribute to bridging the gap between researchers and ordinary people.
I must agree with Foley, I think that the more engaging, and story-like an autoethnographic account is, the more people will understand and relate to it. This alternative method has a higher chance of achieving the goal of autoethnography; relating the personal to the cultural.
Which is why my autoethnographic podcast is filled with anecdotal stories, creative opinion pieces, and the unending stream of kawaii metal songs under my words. I wanted to give the listener every possible narrative understanding of kawaii metal.
Of course this story-like format that I champion comes with its own limitations. For one, as Mendez states, autoethnography in all its forms require honesty, and a willingness to self-disclose from the researcher.
This is especially important for researchers like me, who desire a more story-like experience, as it can be all too easy to slip from story-like into fairy-tale.
As Anderson (2006) fears, “Autoethnography loses its sociological promise when it devolves into self-absorption.” What I’ve learnt is that this is what makes autoethnography so interesting, and yet so difficult. It is again walking that knife’s edge, between relaying your experience of the culture, and relaying yourself to the reader. While each autoethnographic account is through the researcher’s eyes, the focus should never stray from the culture itself.
There are also ethical considerations that must be addressed when using the autoethnographic research method. Many research topics centre around sensitive issues or beliefs in regards to the researcher themselves or the people around them. Due to this, explicit and early consent, and special consideration must be taken into account by the researcher, so as to not offend or impinge upon the privacy of their research volunteers (Wall, 2008, Mendez 2013).
It is also important to note Ellis’ own point about autoethnography, ‘No researcher is an island.’ We all come with our own experiences, our own cultural view point, our biases, and our own understanding. Thus autoethnographic researchers must disclose each aspects of themselves, least their research becomes tainted, and the reader unaware.
Overall though, the autoethnographic method is like any other research tool; it depends on how you use it, and what you want to achieve with it.
Whether it is a clinical recount of events, or your experience of a culture in its entirety. “What matters is the way in which the story enables the reader to enter the subjective world of the teller -to see the world from her or his point of view, even if this world does not ‘match reality’. Another advantage of writing autoethnographically is that it allows the researcher to write first person accounts which enable his or her voice to be heard, and thus provide him or her with a transition from being an outsider to an insider in the research.” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995).
Again, it is this need to bring the outsider inside, which drives the autoethnographic research process. It is making the stranger a friend, and making the alien, home, for both researcher, and reader.
As Ellis said, “On the whole, autoethnographers don’t want you to sit back as spectators; they want readers to feel and care and desire”. And I think this is mostly true of those researchers that use this methodology; their main focus is empathy. When using the autoethnographic method the researcher wants you to feel empathy, as they do while in the research process itself. As it is empathy that incites action (Barkhuizen and Wette 2008)
The entire point, limitations and all, of autoethnography, is to make the reader feel like they are already a part of the culture they are reading about. To make them understand all aspects of the culture through meticulous research, and make them feel like they’ve lived with the culture, through poignant storytelling.
It is this ‘lived in’ feeling that makes autoethnography so powerful for both readers and researchers, and I hope that, in my own reflexive narrative, I have created a story that is filled with the knowledge of kawaii metal, as well as the experience of being a cute girl headbanging to thrash metal music.
Songs In Podcast
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