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  • 00:00


  • 00:11

    DR. AISHA DURHAM: Hello, my name is Doctor Aisha Durham,and I'm an associate professor of communicationat the University of South Florida.In this tutorial, I will discuss autoethnographyas an embodied method and as a writing practice.I will describe it's interventionsby identifying three turns in autoethnography.And I'll close with a demonstration of the method

  • 00:33

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: using performance.Why is autoethnography important?Autoethnography invites us to considerhow our bodies and our lived experienceshape how we interact interpret and represent culture.[WHAT IS AUTOETHNOGRAPHY?]

  • 00:54

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Autoethnography is an embodied methodand a writing practice that examines the social selfwithin culture.By embodied I mean a felt sense of knowing.We use the body as a tool or an instrumentto make sense of culture and our bodies within it.And as a writing practice, autoethnography narratesculture by staging interactions with the self and memory,

  • 01:16

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: with scenes, with spaces, or with other bodiesto highlight how we shape and are shaped by culture.And there are several names for this method,autobiographical ethnography, interpretive biography,performance autoethnography, and even autoanthropology.In this tutorial, I'll address autoethnography in general,

  • 01:38

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: but I'll provide a specific example of autoethnographyusing performance.And recent examples emphasized a motive, the evocative, criticalnarrative truths that are represented in poetry, prose,and in performance.All of these provide departure pointsin conventional ethnography.[WHAT INTERVENTIONS DOES AUTOETHNOGRAPHYMAKE IN EXAMINING CULTURE]

  • 02:02

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Ethnography in general uses participant observationand interviewing.In its traditional form, the omnipresent, omniscientresearcher makes truth claims about a familial otherby representing reality from transcriptions after prolongedcontact in the field.Early ethnographers were invested in objectivity,

  • 02:22

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: and some even ignore power, the power of the researcher,in defining the field and constructingthe other in research.So there are three major interventionsor critical departures that autoethnographymake in the study of culture, the researcherself, the researcher/research relationship,

  • 02:43

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: and the representation of experience.[THE RESEARCHER SELF]Autoethnography studies the self as the subject of analysis.Rather than asking who am I, as isthe case with some personal narratives or autobiographies,

  • 03:04

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: this method asks how am I. And the latteraccounts for the social shaping of a self,marking presence as a departure pointfrom traditional ethnography, wherethe researcher is invisible.In autoethnography, culture does not happen out there,but it actually informs the ways wesee, the ways we think, the ways we act.

  • 03:26

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: So in this way, the field can be maps of memory and interaction,or any place that our body inhabits.Also, in autoethnography, there'sno distinction between the filicideor the home, between our private lives and our public lives,between the researcher self and the research other.In autoethnography, the other can very well be the self.

  • 03:50

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Again, autoethnography centers the self and the bodyis seen as more than just an instrumentto report or gather information.It sees a body as instrumental in sensing the gaps, the holes,the fissures, that bleed and blur and fold onto one another.[RESEARCHER RELATIONSHIP]

  • 04:14

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Autoethnography redefines the researcher relationship,not only by marking the co-presencewith the researched, but also by privileginga partisan, particular, and political interpretationof experience that is critical, dialogic, and reflexive.An important part of this method is self-exploration,

  • 04:36

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: or the questioning of how we analyze or how we writeculture.And this is a dialogic engagementwith the self and the other.And remember, I talked about the self as the other.So here the engagement can be as explicit as integratingconversations from research subjects,or conducting a collaborative ethnography,to constructing a narrative that is

  • 04:57

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: in conversation with the defiant research community.In all cases, the researcher's presence and positionalityare apparent.The autoethnographer attempts to account for power as well,the power as a researcher, power as a writer,and power as a presenter of experience,

  • 05:18

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: and in some cases of a shared experience.So reflecting on the social self,then, is an important component of autoethnographyand the researcher/research research relationship.[REPRESENTATION OF EXPERIENCE]Autoethnography is part art.

  • 05:40

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: How we represent experience is justas important as how we gather and analyze it.And we gather those experiences from memories, from fieldnotes, from journal entries, and from those digital diaries wecall our inbox.Remember, the researcher turns inward to mine the personal,

  • 06:00

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: to craft the creative, provoking story.And it's a story that's less invested in reporting eventsas journalists would and more interested in creatinga narrative truth from personal experience thatuses different forms like poetry, and short stories,and even literary devices like alliteration or even metaphors.

  • 06:20

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: And so to say narrative truth, thisdoes not mean that the final write-up is all made up.But it does suggest that the researcher recognizesthe constructed nature of language and exploitsit in order to offer an emotive, evocative representationof experience that connects the reader through our senses.[AUTOETHNOGRAPHY AS A WRITING PRACTICE]

  • 06:47

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Autoethnography as a writing practicesuggests that the narrative itself is not simplythe research product, but is actually an integral partof the research process.It is in the ability to mine that experience and writeeffectively that we can see autoethnographyis not only a method but also artistry.

  • 07:09

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: It is through the rewriting, the restorying,and through questioning our phrasing, characters,or ideology, or even positionality that we alsosee how researchers make choices about howwe choose to represent the self and the other.To be clear, these choices are not only narrative ones.We might ask, what might a metaphor of a door signify that

  • 07:33

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: a window cannot?Or am I emotionally distant in this first person account?For ethnographers, there are also moral and ethical choicestoo.We might consider the vulnerabilityor the responsibility of the writerin retelling stories or home truths.We might ask, what are the consequences

  • 07:55

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: of sharing an experience that might implicate others?In all, the researcher uses the writing processto reflect, to distill, and to crystallizea particular experience to offer insight about ourselvesin relation to culture.[EXAMPLE OF PERFORMANCE AUTOETHNOGRAPHY]

  • 08:19

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: The following is an example of performance autoethnography.And the brief encounter, concert goerscover multiple forms of citizenship and identity.These are both markers of belonging.The performance demonstrates the dynamic wayswe see the self in relation to and as the other.[AUTOETHNOGRAPHY PERFORMANCE PIECE:REVOLVING IDENTITY THROUGH A DOUBLE DOOR]

  • 08:42

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: Where you from?Virginia.No, where are you from?I want to say Norfolk, Virginia.Are your parents from Virginia?Yes.Born in Virginia?Yes.I mean, is your family from Africa?We all are.We laugh.You know what I mean.Are you African African-American?Black, I said, pointing to brown handslike the language barrier barred us

  • 09:03

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: from seeing us color in the dim lit double doorwhere another Du Boisian hip hop duonamed Dead Prez rapped about being African.And I stand single file at the side door with my V-A-Dand V-I-D for the all white, all black dressed bouncersto look me over before Juan overlooks my self-description

  • 09:27

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: and scans my skin tone, my cheekbones, and my pug noseto point out, you look more African than American.[CONCLUSION]In this tutorial, I've defined autoethnography,identified three interventions of the method that take up

  • 09:49

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: the role of the researcher, power dynamicbetween the researcher and the researched,and the representation of experience.I've also described autoethnographyas a writing practice, which in itself extendsthe analysis of the self by exploring the ways we chooseto represent the social self.I've suggest that autoethnography

  • 10:10

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: is that privilege to situate itself usingemotive and evocative language, draws the readerand invites the reader to reflect.I also showed how autoethnographycan be represented as performance,which teaches interactions so that wecan make sense of culture.For more information about autoethnography,

  • 10:31

    DR. AISHA DURHAM [continued]: please read Black Feminist Anthropology by Irma McClaurin,Performance Ethnography by Norman K Denzin,The Ethnographic I by Carolyn Ellis,and Home With Hip Hop Feminism by Aisha Durham.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Autoethnography

Keywords: art; citizenship; culture (anthropology); embodiment; identity; identity and self; performance; poetry; power (sociology); prose; reflection (psychology); representation; Self concept ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Professor Aisha Durham outlines the principal concepts of autoethnography. She highlights the key elements of embodiment and crafting research writing as art, and she concludes with an autoethnographic performance.

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An Introduction to the Autoethnographic Method

Professor Aisha Durham outlines the principal concepts of autoethnography. She highlights the key elements of embodiment and crafting research writing as art, and she concludes with an autoethnographic performance.

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