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Autoethnography

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By: Deborah Reed-Danahay | Edited by: Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug & Richard A. Williams Published: 2019 | Length: 10 | DOI: |
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Autoethnography places the self within a social and cultural context. It is not primarily about the self, however, and in this, it differs from autobiography. This entry adopts a broad view of autoethnography, with attention to different approaches and applications of this term. Although its first uses appeared in mid-20th-century writings, the concept of autoethnography has been increasingly invoked in a variety of social science and humanities disciplines since the 1990s. The history of the uses of this term is traced from its original uses in the context of anthropological research among non-Western and small-scale societies, when it referred to the ethnographic perspectives on their own cultures by those studied by anthropologists, to more recent approaches that interrogate the researcher’s own life experiences (in and out of the field). For some who use the term, it is primarily about forms of self-ethnography, but for others, it is about ethnographic reflections upon one’s own group. Emphasis can be placed, therefore, more on the self or the social. Autoethnography raises questions about the insider/outsider dichotomy and the construction of the objective observer. Various genres of autoethnographic writing are discussed as well as its applications in illness and migration narratives. The entry ends with attention to critiques, ethical concerns, and emerging areas for further applications.

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