Photo of hand emerging from water with sparkler by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

What if autoethnography were treated not as an academic subject but as an artistic one?

I often get disheartened that when faced with the daunting task of publishing their work, many autoethnographers feel sheepish. “What if it’s just too out there to publish in academia?” I often hear. “What if I don’t have enough theory or sources to make my point?” others ask. “I’d prefer to share it with a literary journal,” some conclude.

I reflect on my own introduction to autoethnography in 2006 when the practice was still establishing itself, and think of all the resources, examples, and support available now; what an evolution! More importantly, autoethnographers have their own professional body and academic journal that boldly showcase the creative alongside the theoretical. Yet still, in 2021, 15 years after my own introduction and despite this progress, I still worry about all of the creativity that gets expressed but then cut for the sake of the final product or article, or worse, never gets seen at all. Excerpts get presented, but how about the full poem? A few images are shown, but where are the others that were excluded? And what about our dancers? Animators? Body paint warriors? And the students who craft masterly autoethnographic odysseys but assume their novice status precludes publication?

This led me to considering, “What if autoethnography were treated not as an academic subject but as a creative one? How would presenting the process and product of cultural research as literary and artistic impact the emotional and cognitive experience of sharing/consuming one’s work, risking rejection or disapproval, finding an audience, empowering creative voices? More importantly, how would emphasizing the cultural made personal craft a framework for a literary and artistic journal?”

So here’s to the autoethnographers in search of a different audience, at home in a different environment, and wanting to emphasize a different aspect of their work. Here’s to the intrepid magicians who spin color, text, sound, and story into evocative, engaging expressions. Here’s to re-casting autoethnography as a fully creative practice.

I welcome you to The AutoEthngorapher, an open-source, peer-reviewed, digital literary and arts magazine. Our independent editorial team of artists, writers, performers, and scholars invites unpublished, unsolicited, evocative stories – sometimes textual, audio, visual, or multimodal – crafted in conjunction with autoethnography that celebrate the intersection of personal expression and cultural inquiry. We also invite reflections on performing autoethnography, interviews with or among autoethnographers, and news/resources.

Please see Autoethnography: An Overview for an introduction to autoethnography. Please see our About page for more information about The AutoEthnographer. Please see our Submissions page for more information about publishing at The AutoEthnographer. Please see our Work with Us page to learn about volunteering at The AutoEthnographer. View Our Team to learn about our editorial board. Visit our Community to interact with others.

Marlen Elliot Harrison
July 1, 2021

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

About Author

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The AutoEthnographer, Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison is an instructor in the fields of English and Education whose autoethnographic writing has appeared in a diverse array of publications including Writing on the Edge, Reflections on English Language Teaching, The Qualitative Report, and Qualitative Research in Psychology. As a journalist, Marlen was the managing editor of the international beauty website, Fragrantica, as well as contributor to publications such as Playboy, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, ESL Magazine, The New York Times, Basenotes, The Language Teacher, and Men’s Health. As an academic and cultural researcher, Marlen has enjoyed contributing to projects at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Finland’s University of Jyväskylä, and the Japan Association for Language Teaching. Having taught and guest-lectured at leading institutions such as Doshisha University (Japan), Florida International University (USA), and University of Helsinki (Finland), Marlen is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University where he also teaches in the online MA English programs. Having called Japan, UK, Malta, and Finland home, he now lives in Florida with his husband and dog. Learn more at

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