Since I am setting this blogspace up for an AE, I figured it would be wise to speak to exactly what is it I am attempting here. AE is a specialized subset of ethnography (Anderson, 2006). From my brief lit review, I learned that (as we frequently find in scholarship) a division exists between AE’ers. In one corner we have the Analytic autoethnographers (AE’ers); in the second corner we have the Evocative AE’ers. As of now, I do not believe there is a champion. So let’s review shall we?
Analytic AE’ers adhere to 5 central features (Anderson, 2006): 1) acquire complete member researcher status (CMR), 2) maintain analytic reflexivity, 3) be a visible and active researcher in text, 4) dialogue with informants beyond the self, and 5) commit to an analytic agenda.
1) CMR – basically we are talking about how it is that the researcher found him or herself in this social cultural circumstance. According to Anderson, there are two types of CMR status: opportunistic and convert. An opportunist may be in the specific cultural context as a matter of chance, occupation, recreation, or other lifestyle situations. (Incidentally, this would be me). A convert is one who intended to conduct data oriented research, but through the course of the research became immersed as a member of the studied group – hence convert/ed.
2) “Analytic reflexivity” – (the quotes are to delineate my lack of understanding on how exactly this differs from ‘non analytic’ reflexivity – someone please enlighten me). This addresses the reflection and processing of the researcher as a self-in-context. The researcher analyzes the recursive interaction between the researcher and the context (informants or general cultural contexts) and postulates the impact of the reciprocal dynamic (Dr. Platt – if I could draw on this blog, I would draw your figure 8-infinity sign right here).
3) Visible researcher in text – different from ethnography where the researcher is typically on the sidelines observing the group/context, the AE’er is an active participant. Thus, the AE requires reflection on both the self and the context. (Basically, the researcher has to include his/her reflexivity in the text and not just keep them as notes, which was historically the case as far as reflexivity).
4) Dialogue with informants beyond the self – I like how Anderson stated this as the “n =1” syndrome. (Incidentally² – this is how my AE will differ from previous writings [i.e. my blogger] which is more a “creative non fiction” or “self narrative…” [See status in right column]. Learning things I am). Simply put, analytic AE differs from other AE due to the requisite that the focus of the research is spread evenly between informants (ingroup members) and researcher.
5) Commitment to analytic agenda – the research goal is to develop, refine, or expand on theory. This is the part I am not sure I can get with and here’s why – According to Anderson (2006),
“…the temporal vista for observation is expansive, the necessity of mentally and physically documenting one’s activities creates additional tasks and, at times, diverts the researcher’s attention from the embodied phenomenological experience… the researcher’s multiple foci separate them in ways from other participants, who may live more completely in the moment” (pg. 380).
As if I don’t have enough trouble being in the moment as it is… Conducting AE with an agenda in mind of theory development removes a layer of authenticity that I feel is significant in the AE experience. According to Anderson (2006), the AE’er is more self conscious than a typical group member. In my situation, being a foreigner who knows little Korean language, I am already more self conscious on a daily basis when interacting with locals. To have this “analytical” agenda hovering over me – well candidly, it’s not that appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there needs to be some concrete direction and focal point for why I am writing an AE (TBD – ideas are brewing, don’t you fret), but the decision I am deliberating is whether I want this project to have a more creative, intimate, and organic flow or a creative but structured scholarly direction.
Which brings me to… evocative ethnography
“Autoethnography wants the reader to care, to feel, to empathize and to do something, to act. It needs the researcher to be vulnerable and intimate” (Ellis & Bochner, 2006, p. 433 as cited in Kidd and Finlayson, 2009 ).
It appears that in evocative autoethnography, the emphasis is on the emotional layers of the research experience. There appears to be more room for the art of writing in that poetry, fiction, performance, and journals can be used to convey meaning (Kidd and Finlayson, 2009). What I appreciate about this type of AE is that there is audience participation – so the readers (ahem, YOU) are “possible agents of personal and/or cultural change” (pg. 982) which means that there is potential for the reader to also be motivated to self reflect, thus bringing about social change, however minuscule or subtle. The idea is that evocative AE has the ability to engage the readers in a more depth-ful way by using or integrating more artistic forms of research into the work. Ahhhh I think I likey….
Can I do both?
Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic Autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35, 373 – 395.
Kidd, J. & Finlayson, F. (2009) When Needs Must: Interpreting Autoethnographical Stories. Qualitative Inquiry 15, 980- 995.