Autoethnography is attractive to me because it allows me to complete introspection that leads to healing and closure as I study and place myself inside of a work of art. It is exactly that, the flash of personality and identity, the moment of healing or of deep introspection, that I look for when I read autoethnographic work. I want to leave a piece feeling like I know the author all the better simply by reading their work.
I perceive autoethnography as a form of real-life scenario that includes hands-on and direct experience of individuals in their own settings. What draws me to autoethnography particularly is the depth and perspective which is normally crucial in the world of marketing, psychology and sociology. It is more of a description of a true self, and a free soul. As an editor in this magazine, I look for a clear separation between autoethnography and diaries.
I am attracted to autoethnography as a method because I see it as an opportunity to break away from being measured by the dominant, white, Western, male standard in academia. It is an opportunity to examine and reshape the prescriptive rules that privilege the “objective” removal of the self in writing which work to invalidate several compelling forms of self-expression. For me, autoethnography serves as one means of dismantling the gatekeeping tactics set in place by the powers that be. As an editor, I am looking for narratives that provide thoughtful, powerful, and compelling imagery/commentary in whatever area the artist chooses to submit. I do not expect all themes to be explicitly stated, but accessibility is important in a piece. As the individual is sharing their own personal narrative, I do look for the narrative to connect and speak to wider themes in society.
I am drawn to autoethnography for a number of reasons, chiefly because of its focus on creative examination of lived experience; that creative part excites me! Just as important is the opportunity for expression of personal voice in realms/genres where personal voice is typically marginalized, restricted, or rejected. I appreciate the intent to give power to a cultural insider, and the acknowledgment that reflective inquiry can be both process/product and is culturally embedded. Mostly I am drawn to the ability to express myself through storytelling. When reviewing submissions, I look to see that the contributor has presented a work that can engage me and stimulate critical thinking. I look to see that the contributor is specifically concerned with a cultural issue and that the contribution presents cultural inquiry in some way. I also look for a strong memo contextualizing the work as an autoethnography and clearly defining and discussing the cultural issue being examined.
As a sociologist, when I think about autoethnography I consider C Wright Mills’ book, The Sociological Imagination. Mills wrote that social scientists should explore “history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” By “history” he meant the larger social context we are embedded in, while “biography” is the personal–your story, your experiences. When I read submissions, that is what I am looking for–how does your story inform the readers about a larger story? Without that, the writing is memoir. I believe we should keep a distinction between autoethnography and memoir, just as we do between ethnography and journalism.
I stumbled into autoethnography out of the need to make artistic work about deeply personal and difficult subjects that I knew were difficult and challenging subjects for many others. I’m a trained theatre artist/scholar who suddenly needed to create performance work to help me make sense of sibling loss and living with anxiety and depression. I needed to make my work to find a layer of meaning in these experiences that I couldn’t find in the work of existing plays and playwrights. It was the making and sharing of work, creation and transmission, that brought the meaning I was searching for. It’s more than simply sharing my story. It’s about connecting my story to larger contexts – sibling loss, grief, mental health/mental illness, public health – and allowing those connections to resonate in the work.
I am drawn to autoethnography because I found myself within it. I was both excited and humbled to discover that there is a world out there in which my experiences can speak to a commentary on society and culture and be considered not only valid, but worthy. As I read submissions for The Autoethnographer, I look for works that use personal experience to explore culture. I want to see personal experience used as a way to reflect and comment on the society and cultures that surround us.
I grew up sitting by the bonfire under the moon listening to stories narrated by my grandparents. The stories were rich with proverbs and idioms. At an early stage the idea of performance, listening, visualization was inculcated in me. Fast forward to decades later when I made a retrospective of my past and current photographic work, I saw a similar vein that runs across. They are commentaries of that curiosity in me, observation, experience of sights and sounds. My work may be my voice but also serves as a vehicle to amplify the bigger issues that face society. As an ethnographer I’m drawn to autoethnography for the fact that it offers a creative method to analyze peoples’ lives, their lived experiences. And in that journey multiple layers are brought to the fore that connects the personal to the cultural. When I review submissions I look out for that layer in the contribution that will hold my attention, provoke, entertain and more so how the theme connects to a cultural issue.
Odessa Ogo is a community college Developmental Composition instructor whose initial foray into the world of autoethnographies opened her mind's eye to a new sense of self and provided fodder for upcoming writing projects and new ways to engage her (at times) reluctant students. Using autoethnography, her master's thesis explored her experiences as part of the CHamoru diaspora and the effects of colonization on CHamoru culture. She received her MA in English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her research interests include ethnic studies, food, food and culture, cultural studies, and autoethnography.
Antony Kaminju is a renowned Photographer, Media Producer & Academic, originally from Kenya and currently living in South Africa. He is a facilitator of documentary photography studies at the Market Photo Workshop (www.photomarketworkshop.co.za) in South Africa, a leading Photography Institute in the African continent. He has also lectured at University of Witwatersrand and as a visiting lecturer at University of Johannesburg. He is former Photographic editor of the Nation Media group Kenya, East and Central Africa’s largest media house. His work has been published by international agencies, Reuters, Aljazeera, BBC among others. He has also exhibited widely including twice at the Bamako Biennale, Mali and his work is part of art collection by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) in France and the Wedge Gallery in Toronto, Canada. He is the founding editor of Photohadithi (www.photohadithi.org), a collaborative visual platform whose integral mission is to nurture and explore on different forms of visual story telling. Antony also has experience as a digital content writer & creator for international brands such as AB- InBev and M-NET. He holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Media studies –University of Witwatersrand and Diplomas in Photography, Communication & Documentary studies from International Institute of Journalism- Berlin, the Market Photo workshop, South Africa & The technical university of Kenya. He is currently an MA candidate by research in Film & Television studies at University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Shanita Mitchell currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Rappahannock Scholars Program at the University of Mary Washington. Since graduating from UMW with her B.A. in 2012, she has continued to pursue her passion for providing underserved and underrepresented student populations with college access opportunities and scholarships by working in and with the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and serving as the advisor for various multicultural and performance organizations on campus. That same passion recently led Shanita to acquire her M.A. in English from Southern New Hampshire University with the intent to expand beyond the administrative side of higher ed and into the classroom. Shanita also works as a dance instructor at The Courthouse School of Ballet and Umbiance Dance Studio. In her spare time, Shanita enjoys portrait painting, amateur photography, costuming, video editing, and advancing her study of Black feminist thought, Critical Race Theory, and autoethnography as a meaningful expression of self.
Jacob Meadows is known by many as Jay, but will publish as Jacob. He is a gay man in small town South Carolina, fighting the good fight through poetry, prose, and local activism. He received his MA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University in 2020 and his MA in English from SNHU in 2021. You can begin following his continued journey through Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" by reading his column, "Jay and June: A Walk Through Gilead," premiering in August 2021! You can find him on Facebook and Instagram @readJacobMeadows.
Jessica Smartt Gullion, PhD, is Associate Dean of Research for the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas Woman’s University. She is also Professor of Sociology and Affiliate Faculty of Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies. She teaches a variety of courses on qualitative research methods. She has published more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Her writing has appeared in such journals as the International Review of Qualitative Research, the Journal of Applied Social Science, and Qualitative Inquiry. Her essays and Op-Eds have appeared in a variety of outlets, including Newsweek, The Conversation, Alternet, and Inside Higher Ed, and she is regularly quoted by national media. Her books include: Doing Ethnography (forthcoming); Qualitative Research in Health and Illness (forthcoming); Researching With: A Decolonizing Approach to Community-Based Action Research; Diffractive Ethnography: Social Science and the Ontological Turn; Writing Ethnography; Fracking the Neighborhood: Reluctant Activists and Natural Gas Drilling; October Birds: A Novel about Pandemic Influenza, Infection Control, and First Responders; Redefining Disability; In Sickness and in Health: Sociological Perspectives on Healthcare; and Voices in Sociology: An Introduction to the Core Concepts.
Dr. Nadine Khair is an assistant professor in marketing and is currently the department head at the American University of Madaba. She completed her PhD in the UK and specialised in international marketing, consumer behaviour and fashion marketing. She also pursued her bachelors and master’s degree in international business and marketing at Hagan School of Business, New York. She previously occupied different positions, such as Marketing and Sales Team leader with Estee-Lauder in New York and Sales & Marketing Manager /Assistant Operation Manager at Jordanian Coast Cargo in Jordan. Her research interests articulate around international marketing, consumer behaviour, fashion marketing, gender-related studies, ethnography and auto-ethnography.
William J. Doan, Ph.D., is a past president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and a Fellow in the College of Fellows of The American Theatre. In addition to articles in scholarly journals, Doan has co-authored three books and several plays. He has created solo performance projects at a variety of venues across the U.S., and abroad, including Drifting, a solo performance about traumatic brain, injury, sibling loss, and memory. His current work includes a new performance piece, Frozen In The Toilet Paper Aisle of Life, part of a larger project titled The Anxiety Project. Work from this project includes multiple short graphic narratives published in the Annals of Internal Medicine/Graphic Medicine, Cleaver Magazine, and Intima: the Journal of Narrative Medicine, as well as an award winning short animated film, Inhale, Exhale, Draw. He is a Professor of Theatre in the College of Arts and Architecture and Director of the Arts and Design Research Incubator at The Pennsylvania State University. Doan served as artist-in-residence for the College of Nursing for two years and as the Penn State Laureate for 2019-2020.
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 http://marlenharrison.com.