This autoethnography thing never ceases to amaze! Behold my shock today when I reread a section in Ellis’ (2004) book to find out that the auto approach to ethnography does not necessarily have to include the researcher’s story to be an autoethnography. [????????♂️]. For example, assisting others to give their own autoethnographic accounts, also counts as autoethnography. For me, this is important to keep in mind as a strategy for interviews in qualitative research.
Ellis was involved in developing an approach called the ‘co-constructed narrative’ as a way to do this. This approach enables a researcher to study relationships between people such that it closely reflects the way they are lived in everyday life. The procedures involved are based on several premises about how relationships are practiced; one of which is that relationships between a couple for instance, are “jointly authored, incomplete, and historically situated” (p. 71). Additionally, connections are based on the nuances in conversation; with negotiations often producing unexpected outcomes. Elaborating, Ellis explains that in order to bring order to the unit, “one of the actions we take in relationships is to assign significance and meaning to rather vague experiences and events” (p. 71). This is done by telling stories about our relationships that are continuously co-constructed. In this view, one’s actions affect the other, with relationships forming due to the joint activity that results (p. 72).
There are many ways of doing a co-constructed narrative. One of them as the title depicts is the mediated co-constructed narrative. Here a researcher assists relational partners who intend on constructing a story together to represent their experiences.
Researcher’s Role & Analysis
Not surprisingly, the researcher can also have an autoethnographic role in this approach. For instance, they can take part in the co-construction with the couple by writing a story of themselves as they reflect on their view of the participants; including how their role (questions asked and responses) might influence the conversation.
Analysis in this approach will involve examining conversational styles, and the way negotiation happens for co-constructing the separate stories. If I’m being honest, I considered ditching this whole approach so I could read other things, but the example below illustrated when it can be implemented.
Leigh, one of Ellis’ students interviewed a Rabbi and his wife separately, and together. She then used these accounts to reflect on their relationship and styles of communication. Interestingly, Leigh notes that even though Rebecca, the Rabbi’s wife spoke confidently and freely when asked questions in their interview together, it seemed as though this only happened when acknowledged or instructed to do so by her husband. However, this was done in a “loving and supportive way (p. 74). So why might someone do this in the first place? The following quote sums it up somewhat wordily, but appropriately.
After each participant finishes, they meet with the researcher, who asks them to exchange and read each other’s version of the epiphany. The researcher tapes their conversations during this session as they confront differences in their accounts and, together, attempt to construct one story out of two. In this stage, partners collaborate in the coproduction of a single text that represents their experiences, negotiating what to include and how—that is, through what narrative devices and forms. The coconstructed story that results is intended to be an empathetic and evocative text incorporating both partners’ voices and subjectivities and inviting outsiders into the intersubjective world of the narrators (Ellis, 2004; p. 72).
Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
This post is part of a series of blogs where I’m recounting my life experiences. In this particular post, I attempt to document interesting methods to research that have caught my attention.
Listen/read my first long article here. It includes another research method that pretty much blew me away.
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