Another Step in Autoethnography

The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about AutoethnographyThe Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography by Carolyn Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I appreciate the author’s effort to make research methods and ethics more accessible to novice scholars. Unfortunately, the attempt fell flat. There seemed too much attention to making this a “novel,” when the text was not about characters. The characters (a mix of composite and actual people) were used as a vehicle to explain the history, methods and challenges of doing autoethnographic work, but more often than not, writing “through” them got in the way of the very information the author was trying to get across. It was stiff and stilted, and eventually I gave up reading it as a novel.

In a moment of frustration, I turned to the table of contents and located a chapter and subheading of interest. Voila! Treating the work as a traditional textbook or reference book proved much more useful. Dr. Ellis’ writing is clear, easy to understand, and full of helpful information. Informative gems once hidden in “I look down at the notes prepared on the issue” and “Jack raises his eyebrows showing interest in the conversation,” now easily came to the forefront. I hopped around from section to section, finding the information I wanted contextualized by the human interactions.

Having read through the text in this way, I still get the impression that autoethnography might be a good method for me, although I don’t have a deep enough understanding to be sure. I’ll need to read some examples of it, and thanks to Dr. Ellis’ extensive notes, I know where to start.

I would strongly recommend that readers begin with the front matter and Class One to get a feel for the text, then skim and skip around as needed. It does not work as a novel, but I do think it’s a helpful text for someone who is completely new to autoethnography and needs a quick introduction to the basics.

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