Self-analysis – meta autoethnography

Self-analysis is never particularly easy. Being asked to analyse my own writing, my own autoethnographic account of Sita Sings the Blues in my last post, leaves me confused an very aware of myself in this endeavour. I am both my own greatest critic and blind to my flaws – I lack a fresh set of eyes with which to give constructive criticism, but the right set to compare myself to my imagined desired self.

Ellis et al. describes doing autoethnography as reflecting on past experiences, using instruments such as a field journal to accompany hindsight. In my autoethnographic process, specifically in experiencing Sita, Twitter acted as my field journal. Live tweeting my reaction to the film allowed me to retroactively track my feelings, thoughts, and reactions chronologically, recall which reactions were to which scenes, and importantly, interact with other students during the process. Embedding my tweets in my blog also allows me to directly address my feelings and examine them in-depth, and follow up on research questions that I asked during the viewing.

Ellis et al. says “When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity.” While watching and while writing about Sita, my background as a strongly-minded feminist really framed some of my questions, particularly about the value of women across cultures. It led to the epiphany that the construct of women’s value being based on their virginity or modesty is not really rooted in religion – it’s not unique to Abrahamic religions if it’s found in Hindusim too, is it? My still-standing question of the origin/basis of the universality of this value system is still at large, and is indeed too large for this particular research task.

In writing my blog I was able to reflect on my feelings and questions, and attempt to find some guidance. I also did further research into the film-maker’s motivations, feelings, and processes while authoring the text. Her view, as expressed on the film’s website, that an honest and respectful approach to other cultures was important when considering your own feelings towards cultural texts really affected my own feelings and concerns about my writing and questions.

Autoethnography: An overview consistently refers to autoethnographic writing as evocative, as powerful storytelling, of blending research and personal experience. I don’t know if my own writing can meet that very high benchmark. I believe my account of Sita is self-reflective, but evocative, powerful? Possibly with more practice. However, I would heap all of those adjectives and praise on Paley and her text. As I attempt to analyse my own autoethnography, I’m realising that’s exactly what Sita Sings the Blues is – an autoethnographic work that blends cultural research with personal experience. Hopefully this epiphany will guide me in my own autoethnographic project.

In my project I plan to conduct interviews with international students from different parts of Asia to learn about foods that are important to their culture and that are culturally important to them.

I lived in southeast Asia when I was in primary school, some 12 years ago now. Some memories are growing fuzzier as I grow older, and eating the foods from my time there is so important to me to reconnect with those roots of mine. Similarly, I left South Africa, the country where I was born, very young. I don’t speak Afrikaans, and only visit every few years. The uniquely South African foods that fed my childhood (and motivate my trips to my mom’s house now) are my strongest connection to a South African identity.

Through my research I hope to collect some of the stories and personal experiences of food as culture. Then I’ll attempt to recreate those recipes for a YouTube series in a bid to experience some part of that culture. Through this multi-faceted project I hope to blend Ellis et al.’s decription of interactive interviews and personal narrative to provide a meaningful autoethnographic account and build upon what I’ve learned and developed so far.


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

Comprehending autoethnography through playing dress up


Having meaningful experiences in life relate to your physical, mental, social and political contexts. Your past actions and decisions influence how you will take on changes, challenges and new experiences in the future.

This is what we describe as an auto-ethnographic relationship between one’s self and texts according to Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. This paradigm of research and writing seeks to comprehensively construe and analyse social, political and cultural impacts in relation to an individual’s experience. The main purpose of this form of research/writing is to identify personal biases and prejudices and relate them to the understanding of a new culture. This may be through the route of text, technology, industry, subcultures, digital media platforms or even practice. It is through these avenues of research that epiphanies are born, creating a new direction of critical thinking or research for an individual. This methodology creates…

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Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand the cultural experience. Ethnography gathers empirical data which is checked and verified through observation with our senses and the evidence evolves from forms of field journalism.

Autoethnography will be a difficult process for me over the next few weeks. Typically, when given assessments or tasks to do the idea of including yourself and reflecting on your personal experiences is something that you don’t think to do (because you were told not to do it at school), so you don’t.

For example, I took a class a few years back at uni that looked at researching a topic that we found interesting or something that sparked our curiosity. Over the weeks we were mostly asked to remove ourselves from the study especially in regards to showing/writing up all the results. Bias is something that was very detrimental to research, it can really obscure the results and affect the way that people viewed the data collected. During this time the act of removing yourself from the results was quite comfortable and came naturally to me due to the fact that we would have to do this at school when writing essays or reports.

However, Autoethnography challenges the way that research and representing others is done. The practice in itself acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotions and the researchers influence in the research, rather than hiding it or assuming it doesn’t exist

Autoethnography is a process that is quite new and interesting to me and somewhat challenging. Personal narrative ethnography, especially community ethnography is quite interesting as it enables the ethnographer to provide personal experiences and narrative to make sense of an experience.

This was something that I experimented with the first weeks of class when writing about the film Godzilla. When comparing the autoethnography to general research there is an obvious difference between them. I have concerns over the basic ideas of bias and creditability of autoethnography, especially when ethics are evolved or interpersonal relationships are kept throughout the process which could skew the results or harm the participant.

Ellias it all explains that “when terms such as reliability, validity and generalizability are applied to autoethnography the context, meaning and utility of these terms are altered” So with this in mind I guess the other areas like ethics, bias are altered.

I think the process of autoethnography is quite interesting as it embraces the views and opinions of the researcher which is something that isn’t common.

Autoethnography and My Diary.

I use my diary as often as I possibly can to jot down moments in time that have made a major impact on me in some shape or form, known as epiphanies (Ellis et al, 2011). From the birth of my nephew to a tough day at work, I describe and reflect on experiences of and interactions with others and the world around me.

I often think of my diary as a time capsule that in which, I can read in the future and understand what once was for myself. It will enable others to explore the way in which I used language to show emotion and thoughts in the written form.

My epiphanies are uniques to myself and you may have some of your own. Ellis et al makes point that people view the world around them differently and I couldn’t agree more.  Ellis states that autoethnography was developed due to scientist wanting focus on developing research based in personal experience, stating “research would sensitise readers to the issues of identity politics, to experiences shrouded in silence and to representation that deepen our capacity to empathise with people who are differently from us” (2011).

In the future, someone or myself could look back at my diary or any diary in general, at the experiences written about to influence the way in which they understand different views of the world then their own.

Checkout this audio piece for a little more of my understanding.





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

Japan – Making horror beautiful

‘… when you feel the need to inflict pain?’

Is what you might be thinking when someone you know says they are going to watch a horror movie.

Well, maybe not so cut and dry as that but there is a definite attraction to pain in most horror movies, an attraction that Japanese film makers seem to convey so beautifully. With regard to horror movies though, the movie Audition is the most ethereal experience I have ever had.

The director of the movie Audition, Takashi Miike, does not intend to classify his movies as any particular genre, even though after viewing Audition I was left with a feeling that resembled anything but safe. This is a serious warning; if you watch Audition, watch it with friends or family.

Upon seeing Audition I had the expectation that afterwards I would be scared of dark spaces for a while, I wasn’t scared of dark spaces though, I was confused, I was confused about what reality was as a whole and how I existed within it, and that was a wee bit more scarier, hence the reason why you need a familiar face around to see you through it.

The first time I watched Audition I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of it from my lecturer, the second time I watched it– I watched it on YouTube.

However, I don’t recommend this for a first time viewing. The colouring in Audition is one of its best features and the lack of resolution in the gritty YouTube image, cheapens the whole experience, to the point where I wouldn’t bother.

I couldn’t hire it at my local video store but you might have better luck. Otherwise I’m sure you could order it online.

Made in 1999 and set in the present day there is every reason Audition would include some reference to cyber-culture, which in the last decade had made a prominent presence in Japanese Horror, however, culturally I felt the story was more traditional, using family and love as the main destructive forces. Body disfiguration is a key component to its horror value.

My interpretation of the submissive orient did impact how I saw many of the characters’ mannerism, and often when I saw how the women in the film would make themselves small and look down when talking, I thought they were being unnecessarily shy. As I said though, I think this could be my lack of understanding of social dynamics in Asian culture, resulting in me using stereotyping to perceive their presence in conversations. In general I feel a twinge of concern about the position of women in the film, however, the storyline I think might portray enough of a detachment from reality to give it some reprieve.

Week One: Auto-ethnography as research and investigating the production, consumption and circulation of Asian digital media

Reading: Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

The reading this week introduces you to autoethnographic method and lead author, Carolyn Ellis, expands on the approach in this audio lecture on music, ethnographic, reflexive writing and personal storytelling.

Further Reading:

Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3.