Coming to Know Autoethnography as More than a Method

Authored by: Stacy Holman Jones , Tony Adams , Carolyn Ellis

Handbook of Autoethnography

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781598746006
eBook ISBN: 9781315427812
Adobe ISBN: 9781315427805


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I have been an ethnographer all my life. I also have been interested in peoples' emotions and intentions and how they create meaningful lives and cope with the problems of living. During the 1970s, I had the good fortune of being at Stony Brook University, majoring in sociology. Thankfully, I was able to pursue my interests and immerse myself in the ethnographic study of community. Positivism ruled in those days, particularly in sociology departments—it still does—and thus I also was encouraged to emphasize systematic data collection and traditional analysis over imagination and storytelling. In 1982, while an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, I lost my brother in a plane crash. That and having a partner in the last stages of emphysema led me to begin keeping notes on my relational and personal experiences of grief and loss, which eventually resulted in some of my first autoethnographic writing (Ellis, 1993, 1995). In 1996 I moved to the Communication Department, and there I was able to continue the work that would connect my sociological eye with a communicative heart. Autoethnography felt perfect to me because it combined my interests in ethnography, social psychology of the self and role-taking, subjectivity and emotionality, face-to-face communication and interaction, writing as inquiry and for evocation, storytelling, and my social work orientation toward social justice and giving back to the community.

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