Ellingson, L. L., & Ellis, C. (2008). “Autoethnography as Constructionist Project.” In J. A. Holstein & J. F. Gubrium (Eds.), Handbook of Constructionist Research (pp. 445-465). New York: The Guilford Press.

I’m reading up on autoethnography, trying to get clear on how (and whether!) to distinguish it from scholarly personal narrative. Ellingson and Ellis (p. 450) talk about how Enlightenment ideals of scientific inquiry—remaining dispassionate, controlling conditions, converting observations to numerals, searching for the answer, separating truth from practice—”are rhetorically constructed to privilege the powerful elite and marginalize other voices” (they cite Gergen, 1999, pp. 91–93). Then this:

Autoethnography developed in large part as a response to the alienating effects on both researchers and audiences of impersonal, passionless, abstract claims of truth generated by such research practices and clothed in exclusionary scientific discourse (Ellis, 2004). It attempts to disrupt and breach taken-for-granted norms of scientific discourse by emphasizing lived experience, intimate details, subjectivity, and personal perspectives. Thus autoethnography as a method participates in the ongoing social construction of research norms and practices at the same time that it seeks to influence the social construction of specific phenomena (e.g., child abuse; Hacking, 1999).

Whether or not SPN and autoE are equivalent, it’s pretty clear they offer the same response to the “impersonal, passionless, abstract” research paradigm. SPN and autoE are a critique of the academic status quo. In a way, they are in-house action research: by advancing SPN and autoE, we call those marginalized voices back to the center.

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