AutoEthnographic Journaling – What is it?

Auto ethnographic Journal

AbyNightowl (c)

– October 25, 2013

A History, A story, A research, A LifeIntroduction

When given the assignment to produce an “auto-ethnographic journal”, I freely admit that I am intrigued.  As a fine artist, musician, educator, creative person in many fields, including education, the thought of writing an autobiography has been on my mind for a number of years.  Having lived through more than my share of both unfortunate, and life altering experiences has also driven my need to write the story, if for no other reason, than to leave a legacy for my children.  I have written pieces of it in verse, in prose, in notes, in notebooks, but have never found the right structure that had the ability to bring together a story that has so many pieces that it seems as if I have lived a hundred lives in one.

As a part of my preparation for this exercise, I did my own research, and found many references to the subject of auto ethnography.  The one that I most identified with was found in an article by BOCHNER (see Cite Index #1) . I particularly like the idea of researchers using not only methodological tools and research literature to analyze a personal experience, but the additional fact that an antoethnographer must also consider ways to use their own personal experiences to encompass and illustrate some facet of their cultural experience.

Autobiographies must possess certain characteristics

1.  They should be aesthetic and evocative, using techniques such as:

a.  use of the first-person to tell a story (CAULEY, 2008, p.442)

b.  bringing in a second-person as a witness (GLAVE, 2005)

c.  bringing in a second-person to describe things too personal to tell in the first person (GLAVE, 2005)

d.  the use of the third-person as a form of reporter. (CAULEY, 2008)

2.   They should engage the readers with conventions of storytelling (ELLIS & ELLINGSON, 2000)

a.  Characters

b. Scene

c.  Plot development

Autoethnographies, on the other hand, try to produce an enriched description of personal and interpersonal experience.  As opposed to a straight autobiography, an auto ethnographer first tries to discern a pattern of cultural experience using:

1.  Field notes

2.  Interviews and/or artifacts

3.  Storytelling

4.  Showing and telling

5.   Alterations of the authors voice

The goal of this kind of writing is to try to make a personal experience meaningful, engaging, and hopefully the resulting text may be able to reach a more diverse audience than either research alone, or an autobiography alone.

Forms of autoethnography include:

1.  Indigenous/native ethnographies

2.  Narrative ethnographies

3.  Reflexive, dyadic interviews

4.  Layered accounts

5.  Interactive interviews

6.  Community autoethnographies

7.  Co-constructed narratives

8.  Personal narratives

Writing personal stories can be therapeutic for the authors (KIESINGER, 2002), as we write to make sense of the things that occurred in our lives.  Writing personal stories can also be therapeutic for readers, making them “witnesses”, giving the participants and readers the ability to observe a problem or experience (e.g. GREENSPAN, 1998; ROGERS, 2005), allowing them to feel validated and/or able to want to change their life.

One of the identified issues that must be dealt with in this form of writing is the ethics of writing publicly about the lives of the persons surrounding the event, or events. For example, if an auto ethnographer tells a story that implicates themselves, and as a part of that story, they speak about a mother, or a son; a husband, or a father, that person is implicitly implicated by what is said, for it is difficult for an identified writer to mask a relationship that is public without altering the meaning and purpose of the story.  The cultural parallel would be similar to a writer in a small community writing about a known person, such as a town mayor, a minister or a public official.  These people are easily recognized, and may not welcome being participants in a text written without their knowledge or consent.  Therefore, the writer must weigh the ethics of either seeking and either gaining permission from these interpersonal relationships, or they may have to protect the privacy and safety of others by altering the storyline to the point where identifying characteristics are removed.  While the essence and meaningfulness of the story is more important than the precise recounting of detail, writers must recognize that these protective devices can influence how their work is interpreted and understood.


Caulley, Darrel N. (2008). Making qualitative research reports less boring: The techniques of writing creative nonfiction. Qualitative Inquiry, 14(3), 424-449.

Ellis, Carolyn & Ellingson, Laura (2000). Qualitative methods. In Edgar Borgatta & Rhonda Montgomery (Eds.), Encyclopedia of sociology (pp.2287-2296). New York: Macmillan.

Glave, Thomas (2005). Words to our now: Imagination and dissent. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.

Greenspan, Henry (1998). On listening to Holocaust survivors: Recounting and life history. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Kiesinger, Christine E. (2002). My father’s shoes: The therapeutic value of narrative reframing. In Arthur P. Bochner & Carolyn Ellis (Eds.), Ethnographically speaking: Autoethnography, literature, and aesthetics (pp.95-114). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira

Rogers, Kim Lacy (2004). Lynching stories: Family and community memory in the Mississippi Delta. In Kim L. Rogers, Selma Leydesdorff & Graham Dawson (Eds.), Trauma: Life stories of survivors (pp.113-130). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press.

Cite Index:

1.  Autoethnography: An Overview

ELLIS, Carolyn; ADAMS, Tony E.; BOCHNER, Arthur P.. Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, nov. 2010. ISSN 1438-5627. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 26 Oct. 2013.

Are You An Anthropocentrist?

This is very interesting.

Laura Grace Weldon

animal intelligence, anthropocentrism, Paradise, by Gillis d’Hondecoeter circa 1575

When I was growing up we were taught humans were at the top of every chart, far superior to all other living beings. Our textbooks, illustrated with stereotypical images of “cave men,” proved the assertion with a long list of what our species could do that others could not. The list was so smug that I was a bit embarrassed on behalf of my fellow homo sapiens. A skeptic even then, I thought the list was somewhat prejudicial. Worse, it didn’t acknowledge what feels obvious to young children, that we are all things and all things are us.

I don’t for a moment dismiss our many human accomplishments—among them language, science, the arts, and shared rules meant to advance mutual compassion. I simply mean to point out that we’re not better, we’re different.

Besides, what I was taught as a kid doesn’t really hold up. Here are…

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Montaigne, the first Blogger

Interesting to read “the first blogger”

Flickr Comments

photo by Frizztext

“My library is in the third story of a tower; on the first is my chapel, on the second a bedroom with ante-chambers, where I often lie to be alone; and above it there is a great wardrobe. My library is a very neat little room, in which a fire can be laid in winter, and which is pleasantly lighted by a window…” Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) wrote in his chapter “On Three Kinds of Relationships”.

Montaigne liked being retired, seeking distance to a world of bloody fights between religious groups. Did these things develop, 400 years later? Montaigne tried to escape dogmatic thoughts finding a new way of hammering out thoughts via his typical relaxed method of writing. Living 200 years earlier than the other genius of essay, the poor Soeren Kierkegaard, Montaigne was not as filled up with anxiety as the Danish…

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Genetic Testing

Genetic Testing

The future is here.  Did you know that you can get your DNA tested for <$100 ?

You can.

And if you would like to be able to understand what the results say when they come in your door, just go here

And take the class called “Genetics”.  It is a college class online, and is free to the public.  What a deal. !

Tears in Heaven

It appears that I have abandoned this site, but that is in no way true. I have been living through the misdiagnosis, and subsequent death of my father. &nbsp;It has been a very long, arduous journey, and for him, at least, it &nbsp;is now over.

During and after, when moments allowed, I made some music, and wrote poetry dictating into my iPhone as I paced the halls of 5 different hospitals.

Dad. The Flyer.

“A flyer went to the skies
To see the morning sun
The flash of the morning light
Glints off his forward strut – what a run..

Free, he knows now, as he soars on wings
Held up by nothing but air.
Flinging himself with a voice that sings
Proud of himself for the dare.

The mountains are far,
his destination in sight
His dreams not yet out of reach,
he sees them fluffy white

As the further he flies,
the harder the sky
Holding down those
Great mountain highs.

The skies are so empty,
There’s nothing in view
Does he dare take
the path of the few?

His voice bouncing out
through thin wispy clouds
As he talks to himself,
” not for me, those shrouds”

The shudder of the wings,
as the little plane slips
Out of place, falling fast,
no radar, no blips

He knew his day would come,
he knew he could not stop
What is meant to be done.
Hoping to land at the top

Gone now as he sits.
In the catbird seat.
Captain of the ship,
but not of the fleet.

A flyer went to the skies
To see the morning sun.”

(c)g.abbey Wednesday, Sept 4, 2013

“The winds that…

“The winds that sometimes take something we love, are the same that bring us something we learn to love. Therefore we should not cry about something that was taken from us, but, yes, love what we have been given. Because what is really ours is never gone forever.”

“The winds that sometimes take something we love, are the same that bring us something we learn to love. Therefore we should not cry about something that was taken from us, but, yes, love what we have been given. Because what is really ours is never gone forever.”

~ Bob Marley

A Collaborative Poem – The First Time I Caught Sight of You

A Cheryl’s Collab Poem

Sep 3, 2010

© g.abbey aka Deviant Artist

The first time I caught sight of you               (Just Joe)

Against the sky so sunny and blue              (Michelle K)

I knew I’d always remember you

Under a rainbow of vibrant hues                 (Sheila A)

So serene, peaceful, and beautiful were you      (Michelle K)

So difficult to just watch and stand still              (LostSoul.L.S)

As you danced under a sea of blue                      (~vivi~)

I drank in the sight of you to my fill

The days, the weeks, the months, they flew       (The Chairman)

As fast as the story winds blew.                           (Michelle K)

The bright lightening the daily finale as the curtain closed

On my happy thoughts of the most delightful you.          (sheila A)

As the lovely morne rose covered with dew,

I knew it rose to shine for you and me.                 (~vivi~)

What the seagull and the robin never knew

As we explored the vast blue sea              (Lady “Cheryl” Death)

Was that what we had was just ours to enjoy

Not shared, nor glared, not like a new toy,

Though I danced provokingly, this was no nun    (JohnLoving1963

Then we lied around just enjoying the sand and the sun.

Deliciously sweet like cherry flavored gum        (Michelle K)

Yet somehow it strangely seems not magical   (Desert Rose)

But all proven, matter of factual.                (Wintah)

As natural as the soaring of the seagull’s.

©g.abbey Sep 3, 2010 (aka Deviant Artist)

A Cheryl’s Collab