Department of Sociology and Criminology

Conference Programme

Day One - Thursday 15 June 2017

Keynote One: 10:00 - 11:00, Jubilee Lecture Theatre

What has stand-up ever done for autoethnography?

Jonathan Wyatt, University of Edinburgh 

In this keynote I shall explore how thinking with and through stand-up comedy might enable us to think differently about autoethnography. I am working (slowly) on a book – Therapy, Stand-up and the Gesture of Writing: Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry – that offers accounts of therapy and stand-up, bringing these together with both personal stories and theory. In light of this work-in-progress I shall make some claims, raise some questions, and offer some writing invitations, together with presenting an account of how stand-up, therapy and autoethnography (or, better, ‘assemblage/ethnography’) bump up against each other.

Jonathan Wyatt is a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. His article with Beatrice Allegranti, ‘Witnessing Loss: A Materialist Feminist Account’, won the 2015 Norman K. Denzin Qualitative Research Award and his recent books include On (writing) families: Autoethnographies of presence and absence, love and loss, co-edited with Tony Adams and published by Sense. He is the director of the new Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry at Edinburgh. 

Autoethnography as Relational Practice
Session One: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 115

The Shadows of Others: Autoethnography as collective experience

Dr Jennifer Clarke, Gray's School of Art, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and Claire Vionnet, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Working together on the publication of a paper about collaboration between art and anthropology and while preparing a common performance, we have been concerned by the question of autoethnography because of the particularity of our shared artistic field(s), dealing with the question of communicating our own experience through words (in anthropological accounts) and through gesture (in performance).

Because choreographers express themselves through dance rather than through words, Claire adopts a phenomenological method to experience the dancing body from the inside. In her PhD, she writes fragments of her own feelings of dancing. Jen's research projects involve constellations of visual art, performance and curation, most recently doing anthropology with art and artists in the context of a 'post -apocalyptic’ Japan. The work of art approached as a work of translation, rather than representation; art is understood to be ‘on speaking terms’ with social research, but in a way that profoundly recognises the value of subjectivity.

In this talk, we would like to stress the collective dimensions, both present and potential, in forms of autoethnography. We will argue that although autoethnography seems to be individualistic, it is never solipsistic; it is a collective process because it carries out the “shadows of others”. What we call “my body”, though which one experiences the world is in fact a collective body, shaped by the presence of other bodies. We will explore how every autoethnography is likewise the resonance of conversation, of multiple voices, voicing shared experiences with our interlocutors.

Crafting a Communal Autoethnography: A Pre-fieldwork Deliberation

Suryamayi Clarence-Smith, University of Sussex

“My” autoethnographic project could never be “mine,” that of one person. If it were, it would betray the very phenomenon I seek to explore: a communal experiment. I was born and raised in the largest, and among the longest-standing intentional communities in the world, Auroville. The overall aim of my doctoral research is to explore Auroville as a site of utopian practice; I seek to understand how the community’s utopian aspirations are embodied and articulated, individually and collectively, and what influence this has in shaping how Auroville is constructed, experienced and perpetuated as a community.

As an embodiment of this experimental society, I am well-suited to explore it through autoethnography, but part of the value of my being an ‘insider’ lies in the recognition that my own experiences and interpretations, while embedded in and contingent on the communal, do not capture and should not purport to represent it.

A constant question occupies me: how can this be undertaken as a ‘communal’ autoethnography? As a community member, I will be a participant first; how can I engage others in being researchers second as well? How can ‘my’ research become ‘our’ research, fostering communal self-discovery, awareness, and reflection?

I will present my exploration of this pre-fieldwork deliberation on crafting a communal autoethnography: how to make the project accessible to fellow community members in order to facilitate collectively mediated reflections and the emergence of a diversity of interpretations to arrive at communal insight and representation.

Session Two: 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee 115

‘You Never Dance Alone’: Supervising Autoethnography

Jonathan Wyatt, University of Edinburgh, and Inés Bárcenas Taland

"So raise your arms, tighten your core muscles, and hold on to your internal rhythm, to the singular meanings that are to guide you to the end of this dance, because after this exhausting stamping, our experiences will part.” (Bárcenas Taland, 2016, p.60) 

In this paper we convey something of our experience of the process of supervising autoethnography. Told in part through excerpts from Inés’ masters dissertation, which offers flamenco as a metaphor for autoethnography, the paper traces through Jonathan’s eyes the materiality, physicality and relationality of supervising autoethnography: where it takes place, the struggles, the echoes, and the connections it makes both with his own experiences of being supervised and with writing autoethnography. 

We propose supervising autoethnography not as ‘over-seeing’, which suggests a view from above or, Daredevil™-like, ‘seeing’ with extraordinary powers, but supervision as an immersion, a flood, a trawl. Supervision as happening beyond sight: as you listen, as you hear doubts and passion, sense shifts made in draft texts sent for comment and response. We propose supervising autoethnography as intimate and private but also institutional, collective, political. And we offer supervising autoethnography as visceral. 

“In Flamenco… [t]he dance is not only yours: as in autoethnographic research, you perform in front of an audience while you attempt to connect with them.” (Bárcenas Taland, 2016, p.8) 

Bárcenas Taland, I. (2016) Narrating anxious-ambivalent attachment and mental representations through the negotiation of my multiple selves on Flamenco beats. Unpublished Masters dissertation, University of Edinburgh.

Self-narrative and pedagogy: Stories of experience within teaching and learning

Dr Mike Hayler and Dr Jess Moriarty, University of Brighton

This paper considers how reflections and analysis of life experience can inform the method and content of teaching. We reflect on our experience of editing a book that uses autoethnographic stories of transition and profound transformation, and how these have shaped the professional identities and practices of the teachers/authors writing about their journeys into teaching.

Stories of change can illustrate the experiences and practices of teaching in a range of educational contexts and by capturing these personal stories, we can inform and support students who are studying to become teachers by developing their understanding and empathy with the role. By reading about the professional and personal identities explored in the book, we argue that students will be able to reflect on their own progression and professional identity and that this has the potential to increase confidence with these emerging roles. The paper will suggest that an autoethnographic approach can and will contribute towards the wider discussion and debates about education, professional learning, teacher identity and the role of education in the early 21st century.

Autoethnography can develop self-knowledge and understanding in the reader and writer of such texts, offering unique insights and individual ways of being that will benefit students and staff in educational settings. The experience of editing these narratives has been moving, absorbing and transformative and we identify this process as a positive resistance to conventional academic discourse which claims to be objective. We argue that valuing personal stories as legitimate academic research is a way of making academic work more inclusive, diverse, pleasurable.

Bridging the North Sea with conversational autoethnography

Trude Klevan, Department of Health, Social and Welfare Studies, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University College of Southeast Norway

Alec Grant, Independent scholar, UK

Lydia Turner, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK

This presentation is based on interpersonal and intrapersonal processes and communication preceding, during and succeeding the writing of our conversational autoethnographic paper “Aha! ‘Take on Me’s’: Bridging the North Sea with conversational autoethnography”. The paper is currently in review with the Creative Approaches to Research Journal.

Where does the process of writing a joint autoethnographic paper begin? Or end? The paper is a result of personal and written communication between five mental health academics from the UK and Norway. In the paper, we explore and show how sharing stories of being a mental health professional and academic, based more broadly on serendipity and searching in life, can serve as means for bridging and developing cross-cultural understandings.  Through its conversational descriptions and explorations the paper also shows how doing autoethnography together can be purposeful in exploring and developing these understandings at both professional and personal levels, and how these processes are on-going and ever-developing.

The paper illustrates how autoethnography as a relational practice can be useful in the sharing of this methodology between people who are familiar with it and people who are not.  Thus, the very practice of writing the paper displays and serves the purpose of bridging people, cultures and understandings at several levels, evening out the traditional boundaries between “us” and “them,  and the “knower” and the “known”. The paper is theoretically underpinned by friendship as method at implicit and explicit theoretical levels.

Session Three: 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee 115

The Hidden Biographies of Taxi Drivers

Ruth Finnegan OBE, Emeritus Professor, The Open University

Taxi driving in various forms has long played a crucial role in the culture of British (and other) towns and, recently, in the immigration process – a pivot in the social and economic history of our urban space and its cultural construction. And yet the subject remain practically unexplored by scholars – almost as if taxis did not exist in our streets past or present.

My current research is designed to reveal something of the fascinating autobiographies of these hidden human beings, with reflections on my own autobiographical experience as passenger and as researcher.

A Red Van Manifesto for Auto-Acceleration

Patrick Laviolette, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Social Anthropology/Anthropology Sociale

I've taken the composite name of Alfred to refer to a claret MPV for which I am a partial owner, despite not having a driver's license. The name derives from Engels and Hitchcock. The former is often reported to have carried Marx, supporting him both financially and emotionally. The latter even went by the obvious nickname Hitch. In 1960 his famous TV series AH Presents dedicated a 25 minute episode to the dramatic psychological mind-game of considering the insider/outsider dilemma. This he did under the auspices of a hitchhiking protagonist. Oddly perhaps, it is an episode in which nobody dies. And yet hitchhiking is often associated with danger or fear, especially in its media and fictional representations. Roger Waters' entire album in the 1980s is equally suggestive of a potentially macabre relationship between the driver and the driven in cases of random encounters by the roadside. This presentation explores these semi-pubic/semi-private semio-spaces. It examines the hybridism, in mechanical, emotional and communal terms, of auto-stop transport as if it was a risk sport. That is, as if it encompassed forms of protest and rebellion whilst demonstrating altruism, charity and certain selfish facets – all at the same time.

Tour de Self

Professor Jon Mitchell, University of Sussex

This paper takes an auto-ethnographic approach to mass participation cycling events (Granfondo riding) to explore the relationships between the cycling self and the academic self. It traces a 5-year arc of recovery from a serious cycling accident and the subsequent crises of identity and the struggles for resolution and closure.

Institutions and Selves
Session Two: 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee G36

‘Artology, Cartology, My Aristotle’ - The Overture 20 April 17 (and)..

Mine Kaylan, Senior Lecturer (January 1993 - May 2017), University of Brighton

This is an interactive live presentation with a projected film poem; it is an edited and shorter version of a larger lecture/performance work of the same name. The film is constructed as a poetic documentary.

This auto ethnographic piece offers an alternative record (to the official) of the experience of working as an academic member of staff on an undergraduate programme in ‘performance/theatre arts’, in a UK university, over a period of 25-30 years from the late 1980s i.e. during major restructuring in Higher Education.

The purposefully non-empirical approach of the documentary ‘film poem’ challenges the fixation with the ostensibly scientific ‘evidences’ in the H.E. institutions during this time. By making use of 1st person material, testimonials and records of live experience of ‘the actual’, the piece questions official versions of evidenced facts.

The piece focuses on the presenter’s professional working context - referencing some parallel trajectories of the few remaining (from the 1970s) kindred degree programmes. The common factor between each is a necessary priority for live exchange, cross disciplinarily and critical presence in their pedagogy and practice. All are closed down in unsurprising succession from 2005 to 2015, and with similarly surprising explanations from their institutions. The last to be rendered redundant is the TAVA (Theatre and Visual Art) course at the University of Brighton.

The presentation itself is described as a ‘poetic action’ where performance action, political action, social and personal rite are made to coincide in context and through time.

‘Positively 4th Street’; Encouraging Critical Reflection for mentors of new teachers.

Christine Lewis, Edge Hill University

The resonance of multi-sensory stimuli especially music and lyrics are central to this vignette in which two secondary school teachers used the emotional power of response to the song ‘Positively 4th Street’ by Bob Dylan in a training session for mentors of new teachers.   

As an auto-ethnographer and co-presenter, I sought to give a reflexive voice to the several layers of consciousness connecting the personal to the cultural (Ellis & Bochner 2000), so that the resonances experienced between different worlds could become more fluid.  

In this way the deliberate articulation of “action metaphors” (arrival, departure, conflict, companionship, tension, delight etc.) through musical and lyrical experience (Winter 2013) were used to challenge the voices within the larger structure of the educational setting.  Naturally because of the inter-subjective nature of music this produced resonances from both ends of the spectrum from the teachers, some very positive and others disapproving of using the performance for this purpose.  Nevertheless as music rouses inter-subjective awareness, transcending individual subjectivity (Benzon 2001), the presenters continued to articulate the tone and expression of the lyrics of the song, some which could be said to epitomise the breakdown of a mentor/mentee relationship, or any relationship for that matter.  The intention was to influence the quality and the style of mentor voices by bringing the subconscious emotions from the song to embody mentoring life.  The presenters hoped this double-focus might elicit renewed ‘awareness of themselves and their feelings towards others’ (Winter 2013).

The Professor's Chair and Other Untimely Academic Novellas: Autoethnography as Social Fiction

Mona Livholts, Associate Professor Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linkoping University, Sweden: Visiting scholar (1 May-30 June), Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research, University of Sussex

This presentation invites the audience to reflect on the contribution from ‘the untimely academic novella’ as a methodological strategy to autoethnography as social fiction. It builds on the writing of my trilogy ‘The Professor’s Chair’ (Livholts 2010a), ‘The Snow Angel and other Imprints’ (Livholts 2010b), and ‘Writing Water’ (Livholts 2013). Characteristic for the untimely academic novella is to theorise embodiement, architectural space and landscape and elaborate with the symbolic, visual and sensory in the intersection of academia, family and society. Inspired by poststructuralist-, feminist theory and literary fiction I make use of a diversity of forms and blurred narrative genres such as diaries and letters, memory work, poetry and photography to create a set of interwoven stories. The untimely academic novella engages in Plummer’s (2001) critical humanism with emphasis on contributions from the fictional novella to explore social life and relations of power. Further, Gilman’s (1892/1989) ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Cixous (2004) ‘Enter the Theatre’ constitute a literary and theatrical framework to address social change and untimelyness. The professor’s chair represents furniture and the power of sitting and the main site of power in academic environments. The snow angel links with landscape, temporality and childhood memory, creating and performing class and whiteness. Writing water represents challenging and reshaping disciplinary boundaries and creating a creative interdisciplinary space for writing research. Is power a posture, and if so does forms academic language create the sitting with power? What happens when knowledge seeps through institutions like water through a membrane?

Session Three: 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee G36

Studying Medicine with Dyspraxia: An Autoethnographic Study

ER Walker, SCK Shaw, JM Price, JL Anderson, Department of Medical Education, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, United Kingdom

“Who wants to be treated by a clumsy doctor anyway?”

Dyspraxia may be defined as “A disorder in which the main feature is a serious impairment in the development of motor coordination…” . This paper presents an autoethnographic approach to tell the story of “Elle” (EW), a UK medical student with dyspraxia.

An initial and ongoing review of the literature revealed that there is now growing evidence regarding the difficulties experienced by healthcare professionals and medical students with dyslexia. However, no research has been conducted concerning dyspraxia in medical education. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to begin to fill the void of research in this area.

Within this paper, a collaborative autoethnographic methodological approach was adopted.

An initial 3,000-word autobiographical account was constructed. This was then complimented by an unstructured, in-depth interview. These were both thematically analysed independently to generate abstracted thematic results.

This autoethnography explores how the experience of a demanding clinical environment can affect a dyspraxic medical student – primarily how the student perceives their strengths and weaknesses. It also considers the heavy emotional burden that they may carry, and possible coping strategies that may be employed to survive.

This study highlights some of the unique difficulties encountered by dyspraxic medical students whilst in medical education, and may offer guidance to similar students and others involved in their clinical and pastoral support in higher education.

The Impact of Dyslexia on Medical Studies: A Collaborative Autoethnography

Sebastian C.K. Shaw, John L. Anderson, Alec J. Grant

Department of Medical Education, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, Brighton, United Kingdom; University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom

“Hello, my name is Seb. I am a final year medical student, and I have dyslexia.“

The topic of this paper is the experience of the impact of dyslexia on medical studies, explored using a collaborative autoethnographic methodological approach.

This study was prompted by an initial and ongoing full search of the literature, which revealed an absence of autoethnographic research into the experiences of medical students with dyslexia. There has, in fact, been no other qualitative research into medical students with dyslexia.

This paper has four aims: to provide an in-depth, multi-layered account of the impact of dyslexia on a UK undergraduate medical student; to help other students and academic support staff in similar situations; to outline improvements that could be made to medical and other educational curricula and examination procedures, globally; finally, to call for further qualitative research to test out, possibly enhance, and qualify the cultural transferability of our study.

This paper forms part of a series of insider research into dyslexia within medical education from SS and JA. It has paved the way for an interpretive survey study of junior doctors with dyslexia in the UK.

When academia goes wrong and auto-ethnography gets it right

Jonathan Newman

In the aftermath of bullying disguised as academic tradition, a body discovers marginalisation and silence in fortified institutions. It reacts with torment, paranoia and a crisis of the self. Academia nurtures and disciplines critical thought processes and written narrative, yet when academia is experienced as oppressive and damaging, how do you write against the academy without reinforcing its power? In these circumstances creative auto-ethnography offers tools for deconstruction and rebuilding; a (self)-validation between the vacuum and the maelstrom.

This presentation considers the process of writing a paper that was presented to an auto-ethnography discussion group. The article drew on diaries of an ethnographic study into drug markets, older diaries from an ethnographic study into violence and regular day-to-day notebook entries, psychotherapy and a recent interest in art. I consider how these inputs produced idiosyncratic writing, and reflective re-reading, that significantly shifted an entrenched, distressing mental disposition. Concurrently, the process engages with anthropological debates and institutional anthropological economies.

What on the surface appears to be a story of mental health and creative healing becomes, through the production of an item of auto-ethnographic interest, an uncomfortable observation, and opposition, of power in the academic anthropological process.

Anthropological knowledge is steeped in a history of ethnographic encounter. Auto-ethnography is not always deliberate, sometimes it is the unexpected alchemy of accidentally turning anthropological perspectives onto the uncertainty of being.

Bodies and Senses
Session One: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee G31

Tracing the liminal: autoethnographic strategies in soundscape art

Dr. Iain Findlay-Walsh, Independent researcher

To listen in the urban everyday is to reconcile multiple orders of real and represented auditory space simultaneously, to perceive them, reconcile them, and locate our selves among them. In this sense, the listener’s position can be understood to be liminal – a persistent emergence on thresholds between the real and the virtual, and between roles of sonic producer and consumer. The listener is (an) in between space. In such a context, how might field recording and soundscape art practices, by turning their focus in on the recordist-listener, engage with changing relations between listening and environment? 

This presentation explores autoethnographic approaches to recording, producing and presenting environmental audio, specifically in relation to present-day urban soundscapes. Drawing on the ideas of Salome Voegelin, Brandon LaBelle and Carolyn Ellis, and discussing pieces by Hildegard Westerkamp, Christopher DeLaurenti and Marc Baron, as well as my own recent pieces, I focus on soundscape work which explicitly re-stages and layers the personal listening experiences of the recordist. Through this discussion I will present some specific ideas, strategies and approaches to recording technology, which have evolved through my own practice-as-research. These include an attention to auditory subject-position and the semantics of handling noise in field recordings, the taking and circulating of 'aural selfies', and the composing of multiply-embedded listening encounters which explore personal listening as both composition and reception context. By concentrating on techniques and technologies I will highlight practical strategies for generating sonic self-narratives, towards new embodied understandings of sound, listener and urban environment.

Breaking the waves

Kalle Jonasson, Department of Sport Science, Linnaeus University 

How to give voice to any thing? In this project I challenge and develop the posthumanist notion of letting things speak for themselves. Paradoxically, I do this by recording my own voice while running on revetments, i.e. breakwater structures that prevent erosion in urban coastal areas. Could autoethnography also ‘evoke’ (Bochner & Ellis, 2016) the surroundings to make them tell their own stories? What kind of story would that be? One ontological and epistemological concern is to discuss the role of the human subject in posthumanism.

By recording the voice of my running body in this eerie and unwelcoming no man’s land, a performative ‘nature writing’ of sorts is taking place. one which conjoins the universe’s own story, which the philosopher Michel Serres calls the ‘the grand narrative’ (Watkin, 2015).

The practice for the investigation, revetment running, is apt in many ways for elaborating with the posthumanist repertoire: water is the posthumanist element par preference (Barad, 2007); the uneven surface of revetments demands attention so that the subject (which I define as “free-willed” and intentional”) is hindered to have a say; revetments are fuzzy areas (Lahiri-Dutt, 2014) between land and sea, and hence a materialisation of the posthumanist concept ‘natureculture’ (Haraway, 2008).

I argue that there is a place for the human subject in posthumanist narratives, but that it ‘comes to the party second’ (Watkin, 2015). Prior come – what I refer to as – the project (the body thrust forward by the surroundings) and the interject (the voice of that body).

Writing the Dead in Two Parts

Alec Grant, PhD, Independent Scholar

This paper, written and structured in two parts, is intended as a ‘thought piece’ for my audiences (Grant, in press). Part one, written in haibun form as  a mixture of prose narrative and haiku verse, is the story of my experience of my troubled relationship in her life and death  with my late sister-in-law. Part two explores the ethical implications of the haibun. It is constructed on the basis of relational autoethnographic email exchanges with international narrative and autoethnographic scholar colleagues, which shaped a developing focus on posthuman and narrative ethics. This focus eclipses the primacy and exclusivity of normative procedural and relational ethical considerations in autoethnographic and auto/biographical research and writing. I will perform my work in a reading of the complete paper.

Session Two: 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee G31

Autoethnography by accident: how chronic pain changed my views on the conduct of ageing research and its data analysis

Dr Siew-Peng Lee, Visiting Research Fellow, Brunel University


  • Explicate how an immobile shoulder led to reflections on and speculations about ageing research and data

  • Explore the implications of well-intentioned attempts by anthropologists to dispel ‘myths’ about ageing

  • Highlight the urgency of praxis in ageing research  

When a frozen shoulder led to severe loss of muscle strength and restriction in movement, and constant pain led to sleepless nights, I finally understood what my former respondents (aged 60 and over) in sheltered housing meant when they complained continually about pain and sleep problems. Now at an age at which I could have been one of my own respondents 20 years ago, I reflect on how my methodological approach, resulting data and subsequent analysis might be different had I been an older co-resident ethnographer.

Most significantly I realized that I had committed a ‘sin of omission’: in trying to dispel well-known ‘myths’ about ageing – to do otherwise would have rendered me ‘ageist’ – I might have accidentally or deliberately overlooked the needs of those respondents who were most frail and vulnerable. Instead I noted with relish those individuals whose abilities helped to undo stereotypes about ageing.

This paper explores how by inserting myself into a research project as an autoethnographer – even if only in theory – I might have avoided some of these errors. I will also discuss why and how researchers often fail to act on research data, why it is important to do so, and suggest how we might start trying to influence policies.

Conscientiously objecting

Mark Price, Education Research Centre, University of Brighton

It's 1967 - the summer of love. I'm 8. Colin's dad was a bomber - just like in the films. "What was your dad in the war then?" I sidestep and deflect the embarrassing gaze, suggesting we play Cluedo or Spy Ring. I'm used to these acts of betrayal,  just like I do with other secrets  – like I go to Sunday School and I can't swim. My dad was a conscientious objector – basically he didn’t fight

It's 1981 - the lunatics have taken over the asylum. I'm 22. My dad studies my 'Free Nelson Mandela' badge quizzically. He asks me how I reconcile the complex historical/political contradictions woven throughout South Africa’s history, and how this has then led me to support the actions of ANC. I don’t understand what he’s talking about. I just want to Free Nelson Mandela, in the same way I want to Legalise Cannabis, Rock Against Racism and Ban the Bomb. I ask him again about what it was like to be a conscientious objector. About his faith. And about how come he still thought the war was justified. My pride in his principles becomes entangled with my frustrations with his logic.

 It's 2017 – this time, the lunatics really have taken over the asylum. I'm 58. I'm slipping out of focus, out of time, out of faith. I imagine my dad. And try to position my objections, conscientiously.

 A tryptych on fathers, embarrassment and taking a stand.

Are researchers studying ageing allowed to age? An autoethnography of ageing

Teresa Amor, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Anchored in a phenomenological perspective, my research (PhD fieldwork) was structured around one main question: considering that concern about ageing and its association with a more vulnerable life course phase is not a contemporary phenomenon, how do individuals perceive and experience their own ageing process?

The ethnographic data showed that ageing tends to be viewed in the first instance as a matter of aesthetics (and only afterwards as a matter of health). In contrast to other times in history, when ageing was feared mainly because of diminished functional autonomy, nowadays, phenotypic signs of age stand out as the primary focus of concern, occurring in increasingly early phases of the life course.

But if the attention was focused on others’ perceptions of their own ageing process (people aged from 35 to 85 years old), I also got frequent remarks and questions about my own ageing throughout the fieldwork:

“I wish I had your courage” [for not dyeing my hair]

“Do you still wear tennis-shoes? I’m afraid it’s no longer age-appropriate for me…”

“Do you still go to dancing clubs? I am afraid young people will find me ridiculous.”


In my mid-forties, and having over twenty years of research experience, I have always made an intentional effort to remain vigilant about my own opinions and personal references. This time, however, autoethnography emerged as a need to remain neutral and objective, and to rethink validity concerns for autoethnography.

Session Three: 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee G31

FASHIONING THE SELF: a narrative of fashion, style, identity and age

Dr Jackie Goode, Visiting Fellow in Qualitative Research, Loughborough University

It is the late1920s. A little girl is growing up with her two brothers in a tiny ‘two-up two-down’ terraced cottage down the road from the farm. Every year she goes to a party held for local children by the village teacher in the ‘Big House’ that dominates the village. Until a secret in the little girl’s family becomes public. After that, she never goes to the Big House again. Not for many years, that is, until she has children of her own. One day, she dresses her two little girls in their Sunday best - hand-smocked satin blouses, plaid pinafores, freshly-shined shoes and ribbons in their hair - walks them across the fields back to the Big House and knocks on the door.

This presentation is an auto-ethnographic story of the part played by clothes in the fashioning of the self. For me, now, an older self. The popular media suggest that we are currently witnessing “a fashion for older women”. Do fashion designers know this? The sociologist JuliaTwigg suggests that the spread of fashion opportunities to older women entails the colonisation of their bodies by new expectations, new requirements – ones that demand that they be fashionable or well dressed, but that present the body in such a way that age is as far as possible effaced. So, does fashion efface one’s age or enhance one’s agency? Let the story begin…

The trouble with normalization. A shoe story

Dr Karen Mogendorff, Anthropologist and Communication Scientist

In this contribution I question body normalization practices as propagated in the clinic and the notion that disabled bodies are damaged non-disabled bodies. I do this by diffracting my lived experiences with orthopaedic shoes – sociocultural devices that are designed to normalize neuromotor impaired walking styles, and, simultaneously, seek to make walking easier for people with neuromotor disorders. In theory body normalization through shoes and other means is assumed to increase normal (ambulatory) function in patients. In practice, orthopaedic shoes are as likely to constrain neuromotor function as they are bound to improve gait and walking style in disabled citizens. I will argue - based on my experiences with orthopaedic shoes in clinical and everyday settings over three decades - that in order to promote disabled citizens’ optimal functioning disabled bodies are better not conceptualized as ‘damaged able-bodies that can be repaired according to dominant norms’. And that a more fruitful approach would be to primarily treat disabled bodies as differently functioning bodies that require the development of disability and condition sensitive strategies and interventions to optimize disabled people (ambulatory) functioning in our everyday sociocultural world.

Dreamy States and Cosmic Wanderings: An Autoethnography of Spiritual Experiences in Epilepsy

Louise N. King, Chris A. Roe & Elizabeth C. Roxburgh, University of Northampton, UK

Study of anything can sometimes drain it of its feeling, its blood (Moriarty, 2013); losing a sense of the embodied individual (Muncey, 2010). Epilepsy, a neurological condition, disrupts the Cartesian split and is by necessity an embodied illness. Spirituality has been known in epilepsy since the Babylonians (Temkin, 1994). Some experience deeply spiritual states (Dolgoff-Kaspar et al., 2011). The medical model pathologises these experiences, regarding them as, at best, delusions or hallucinations (e.g. Sacks, 2012) and at worst, a symptom of seizure-associated psychosis (e.g. Devinsky & Lai, 2008). Experients fear judgement and being labelled as mad and (Åsheim Hansen & Brodtkorb, 2003). I have experiences resulting from my epilepsy that defy a strictly neurological, materialist, medical explanation. Autoethnography gives voice to this experience - indescribable in medicinal terminology (Frank, 1995). Through autoethnography, I seek to problematize the current understanding of these experiences, rejecting the normalising hegemony of the able-bodied (Thompson, 1997).

My autoethnographic narrative offers insight into the cultural revulsion of disability (Goffman, 1963), where illness as an experience is culturally shaped (Kleinmann, 1998). Using poetry, painting and narrative, I explore the specific character and intensity of the feelings that accompany my epileptic experiences. Themes of stigma, shame, relationality and illness are revealed alongside an exploration of non-shared reality. The layers and voices of my narrative and the meaning my experience of epilepsy appear in the criss-crossing of my personal and societal roles as researcher, student, woman, patient, psychotherapist. In my voice, transformation and healing emerges.

Experimentation and Autoethnography
Session One: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 135

'My sensitive self' and 'my research self'

Christina L. Lademann, Master of Arts Education in Educational Anthropology

During a three-month fieldwork in the fall of 2014 I became what every researcher, that involves them selves with auto ethnography, is potentially accused of – I became self-centred. This was an outcome from assuming an identity as a highly sensitive person as I had followed the popular phenomenon highly sensitivity and had gained access at two mindfulness courses for highly sensitive people. The nature of the field demanded that I involved myself fully in practises of mindfulness and self-development, which meant exploring my own experiences on doing mindfulness, reflecting on my own sensitivity and sharing in the groups thoughts and feelings about being highly sensitive, that I didn´t even share with my closest friends and family. The result was, that I during the period of the fieldwork couldn´t demarcate between ‘my sensitive self’ and ‘my research self’.

On the basis of my fieldwork I will argue that becoming self-centred during the period of the fieldwork gave me an advantage position, that led to great insights on how highly sensitivity relates to a broader structure in the modern society – a culture that emphasizes individual identity and self-development. I will use terms developed on the basis of studies of modern culture to argue that highly sensitivity must be understood as a cultural phenomenon.

‘Living Fieldwork’: re-centring the self in the field  

Giulia Battaglia, IIAC/LAIOS – EHESS, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris

This presentation addresses the concepts of ‘slowness’ and ‘engagement’ in the anthropological fieldwork practice. Based on ethnographic encounters and first-person self-reflections concerning the modalities through which anthropologists relate to their research (in the field as much as outside the field), this paper explores the meaning of what I call ‘living anthropology’. That is, an art form slow and engaged in its nature and constituent of the discipline of anthropology - yet existent outside the dual division between methodology and theory. Indeed, is it possible to think anthropology beyond its classic dualistic tradition? Or, to what extent we can today think anthropology beyond its method? Is there a way to go beyond the classic debate around ‘ethnography’ as methodology (à la Marcus) and ‘ethnography’ as theory (à la Ingold)?

Through a series of auto-ethnographic reflections and analyses developed while studying a community of filmmakers in India, in this presentation I re-centre the role of the ethnographer in the field. I pay attention to the role that the ethnographer plays while reacting to unwanted encounters, determining unpredicted new situations, and challenging pre-fixed anthropological notions much before (or in parallel to) studying his/her selected object/subject of research. I argue that a serious reflexion on the slow ‘living moment’ of the fieldworker (an auto-ethnography?) as separated from the methodological moment of fieldwork (by and large concentrated on the object/subject of study) shall enable the discipline of anthropology to better engage with its field and create cross-fertilisations with other fieldwork-based academic disciplines and art practices.

Being a ‘Student-Researcher’ and an ‘Outsider’ Studying Student Movements

Gaurav J. Pathania, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi

Generally social sciences researchers in India have not been part of their subjects’ life-world. For example, most studies on dalits are by non-dalits; tribes are studied by non-tribes; and similarly slums are studied by those who are economically well-off. Social scientists, such as Guru and Sarukkai (2010) with references to the concept of ‘lived experience’, have critically evaluated these binaries and raised theoretical concerns.

Therefore, a central question regarding a researcher’s position as an outsider evokes various methodological issues of value-neutrality and morality.

My doctoral research dwells in the quandary of these methodological issues. It presents various ethnographic encounters on campus life and student movements around the separate statehood of Telangana. It captures qualitative data from student activists of Osmania University, in Hyderabad, South India and presents regional, linguistic and cultural dilemmas and challenges faced by the researcher in the field. My own position as a researchers as well as a student; my identity as a North Indian, and my caste identity raised ethical challenges and posed threats to my identity (not) being accepted as a researcher.

How does the ethnographer manage his emotions in a field rife with students committing suicide, police violence and state repression? How does a researcher deal with such identity-threats and manage his reaction-formation? Also, can this situation lead the researcher to a position of value neutrality and acceptance or threaten his process of research altogether?

Session Two: 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee 135

A surprising turn of events

Dr Rob Warwick, Reader in Management and Organisational Learning, University of Chichester, and Dr Bob MacKenzie, Professor of Management Learning, IMCA Business School

We are two male academic/practitioners with different life stories who have spent several years, separately and together, drawing attention to connections between academics and other practitioners in the fields of personal, management, leadership and organisational development, and between writing and conversations.  

Here, we investigate a recent episode in our shared experience.   In December 2016, we co-edited an edition of a journal on the theme of trust in organisations (Warwick and MacKenzie 2016) in which we invited contributors to write their stories and reflect upon their experience. Subsequently, we were invited to facilitate a workshop with senior HR professionals, and devised a fishbowl exercise involving the two of us and a participating author.  A conversation progressed with us three surrounded by a circle of observers, whose brief was to notice what themes of trust were emerging in our conversation of how we worked together. We thought it went well.  

After a short break, the fireworks started! One individual in particular showed uncommonly aggressive and judgmental behaviour, and resistance to exploring the phenomenon of trust experientially.  Admittedly, we had used terms such as ‘power’, ‘misrecognition’ (Bourdieu, 1990) and ‘critical friendship’ in specific, academic ways.  But why such hostility?   

Through collaborative writing, role play and group conversation, as well as an experimental auto-ethnographic (e.g. Chang 2008; Foley, 2002, Reed-Danahay 1997; Wall 2008) fiction-science (e.g. Czarniawska 1998; Watson 2000) approach, we hope to make better sense this uncomfortable experience, for the benefit of our subsequent praxis and that of others.

Space and Mobility
Session One, 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 118


Avril Loveless, Professor of Education, University of Brighton

In remembering John Berger, Olivia Laing wrote:

“He talked that evening about the need for hospitality. It was such a Bergerish notion. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, a word that shares its origin with hospital, a place to treat sick or injured people. This impetus towards kindness and care for the ill and strange, the vulnerable and dispossessed is everywhere in Berger’s work, the sprawling orchard of words he planted and tended over the decades”. (Laing, 2017)

The presentation will be a reflection on hospitality in our times. I shall perform a short story of my experience of learning to counter and flow around borders, bans, walls, and multitudinous hostile environments in order to befriend strangers.  It is rooted in other long-standing tales and myths of movement, migration, and marginalization.  The story is set in church and village halls providing sleeping spaces for people from everywhere. They are homeless or on the move or waiting for leave to remain after being detained. They sleep at the heart of policy to remove them from our doorsteps and keep them out of sight. They sleep alongside a gathering of people for whom hospitality is an act of kindness and an act of resistance. The strangers are guests. The volunteers are their friends. As in Chaucer’s poem, they tell tales as they journey alongside each other. They are all learning modes of being in our times that echo calls for hospitality over centuries.

“The Man with a Hole in His Heart”: A Story of Friendship in the Field

Thomas Chambers, University of Sussex

Through an auto-ethnographic account this piece tells the story of a complex and emotive relationship between an anthropologist and a woodworker from the North Indian city of Saharanpur.  The piece explores differing expectations around friendship along with the ways in which this relationship was and is shaped through cultural contexts, economic conditions and more affective or emotive considerations.  The tale is one of love and care, difference and conflict, trust and reciprocity, falling out and patching up.  It is tale is one of humour, tension, sadness and affection.  It is a tale that spans both time and space.  A tale that ranges across biography and autobiography.  A tale that remains incomplete…  

As anthropologists we are often engaging in relationships with others which blur the lines of friendship, interlocutor, informant or participant.  The connections we build in the field may be fleeting or may last a lifetime.  Yet the expectations that we bring and the expectations of those who we mutually identify as ‘friend’ are often complex.  The requirements of our research pushes us to seek more than friendship alone.  Friendship itself is culturally constructed and ontologically defined.  Such friendship may not always be easy and may reflect tension as well as connection.  This paper makes its primary contribution through an exploration of expectations embodied within friendships in the field.  It draws out contextual meaning bound up in cultural backgrounds and (auto) biographical histories.  The piece reflects a more raw and emotional level little discussed in the outputs of fieldwork that are often constituted through anonymity and the distancing of human emotion in order to seek out a grander narrative of a contribution beyond that of the ‘felt moment’ or enduring intimacy.       

“A Shipwreck Named Desire”: Performed Volunteerism and Balances Hard to Keep

Eleni Kotsira, PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews

During February of 2016, as restrictions were being imposed at the Greek-FYROM border of Idomeni, there was an outburst in the social media that voluntary help was needed at the port of Piraeus - the busiest port in Greece and one of the largest in Europe. Refugees were no longer simply passing by the port on their way from the islands to the borders; they had started settling at the port. The ban of crossing in March and the following agreement between EU and Turkey, resulted in about 5.500 refugees finding shelter at the port which, even though had started to resemble a hotspot, lacked the required infrastructure. I found myself there since early March as an independent volunteer and later, in April, I started working at what was by then a makeshift refugee camp. This presentation will discuss and question the role of volunteers, especially their shift from “the kindness of strangers” to their personal motives and vice versa; the challenges and deficiencies resulting from a volunteer-driven management of a camp instead of a state-organised one; the role of the social and mainstream media in raising volunteer response across Greece and the political connotations this might have in specific for the recently troubled city of Piraeus. Particular attention is also given to the absence of cultural appreciation and understanding from untrained (or indifferent) volunteers, which frequently resulted in balances hard to keep amongst the diverse population of the camp at the port, during both happy and painful occasions.    

Session Two, 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee 118

Khlebosolny: performative auto-ethnography as an artistic research method into the poetics of migration

Katy Beinart, PhD candidate, The Bartlett, University College London

Senior Lecture in Architecture, University of Brighton

In 2012, my sister Rebecca and I travelled to Lithuania and St Petersburg on a mobile art residency to research our family history, hoping to fill some of the gaps and absences in the story. Our great-grandfather Woolf Beinart had grown up in a small town in Lithuania called Rokiskis, before travelling to South Africa and setting up a business as a salt trader. We took with us a performative ritual, ‘Khlebosolny’, developed as a re-enactment of a traditional sharing of bread and salt at the threshold of a new home.

This auto-ethnographic journeying in search of our past could be understand through the frame of Marianne Hirsch’s ‘Postmemory’ and Nancy K. Miller’s ‘transpersonal’. Postmemory understands the legacies of the past as ‘inflected by broader public and generational stories, images, artefacts, and understandings that together shape identity.’ The ‘transpersonal’ recognises that the personal is necessarily political, (emphasizing) links that connect an individual not only backward in time vertically through earlier generations but also in a horizontal, present tense of affinities.

In acting out these journeys of return, we became aware of our own identities and social relations in the present. I explore how, through sharing the ‘Khlebosolny’ ritual on the journey and on our return, these performative auto-ethnographies invited others to relate their own stories of migration and absence. 

‘It’s a point of stillness in a crazy world’: Voices, Cyanotypes and Writings from The Green Backyard

Jessie Brennan

What are the processes by which one might creatively relate to, engage, challenge or critique neoliberal practices and narratives of urban development, instead producing ‘bottom-up’ histories, revealing contested voices and creative archives? This is the question that first drew me to The Green Backyard, a community-growing project in Peterborough, which for years was threatened with a proposed development by its owner, the City Council. While that threat was ongoing the voices that resist it are stronger still: on the 27 January 2017, after a lengthy – but successful – community resistance to the proposed development, the land is finally safeguarded.

Inside The Green Backyard (Opportunity Area) is an outcome of my yearlong-long residency project in collaboration with the people who use and care for The Green Backyard. It takes the form of a visual and audio archive – over 100 cyanotypes and more than 100 oral recordings. During my time in residence in Peterborough, we questioned the capitalist logic of the proposed development of the site and offered alternative evidence for the current social use and value of the land.

In particular, the invitation to speak about a significant object of choice and to record their oral contribution in private, led people to reflect frankly and intimately on why they feel The Green Backyard must not be lost to development. I would like to hazard that autoethnography acknowledges the positionality of the subject, and together the voices form a living example of a broader political challenge to the neoliberalisation of nature.

Escaping Capitalism: An Autoethnography of Autonomous Resistance in Slab City

James Simmons, PhDc, Department of Anthropology & Social Change, CIIS

The question of how to bring about social change in the context of economics and/or culture has been widely discussed.  My project considers what autonomous villages have to offer by way of alternatives to conceptions of bringing about social change through Tronti's “strategy of refusal”.  Specifically, I will be looking at Slab City, its cultural production as well as its everyday life practices, in order to show that it is a spontaneously formed community that is an excellent example of this.  We argue that the depressed capitalist town of Niland is almost entirely economically dependent upon the mostly non-capitalist autonomous village of Slab City via tourism it brings in to the region.  We also argue that Slab City has gotten significantly more tourism and seasonal residents due to exposure it has received from commercialized cultural production attempting to represent it and that this helps transform the community into a form of spectacle which makes it easier for normalization to occur and therefore fully reintegrate it into capitalism and the state.  An autoethnographic methodology is employed after living there for multiple seasons and participating in spaces surrounding these topics.  The purpose of this is to explore how voicing my experience with these spaces and people speaks to and resists larger structures found within the dominant paradigm (i.e. mass media, the state, capitalism, etc.).  In conclusion, this project, by closely examining how autonomous villages are already building a new world today through prefigurative everyday life practices of rebellion that strongly links cultural phenomena to the economic and the relationship it has to particular external capitalist forces, sheds new light on the little recognized issue of how autonomous villages of rebellion are incorporated back into the capitalist system.

Session Three, 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee 118

Learning from controversies in autoethnographic filmmaking: my experiments with techniques drawing from the home movie idiom as a way of sharing paradoxes of a migrant’s “adventure”

Marta Kucza

This session explores challenges of the autoethnographic mode, based on my work on a complex ethnographic and video project. Through The Places from Which We Are Absent, I have been exploring the paradoxes of a migrant’s “adventure” in counter tension with what it means to pursue a better life, real and imagined, in Western Europe. I am recycling my VHS home movies portraying my family’s life in Poland during the transition to the market economy in the early 1990s and recalling my family’s first travels abroad. I have been filming also my cosmopolitan life in Western Europe more than 25 years later. In a parallel storyline, I am following the paradoxes of a Guinean-Polish friend of mine, living and working in United Kingdom. I will talk about techniques that allow me to generate associations between the individual experience of home, shared imaginary of a better life elsewhere, and the agency of objects and technologies enabling virtual connectedness. I will refer to autoethnography in documentary and experimental filmmaking, and to Bruno Latour’s proposition of learning from controversies (Latour 2005). Through my own practice of filming familiar worlds through the “lens of a relationship,” I will also reflect on the epistemological and ethical risks that autoethnography pose in relation to the notion of co(i)mplication, meaning “both complexity and interpenetration of subject/object identities” (Gaines and Renov 1999: 141). Lastly, I will talk about strategies that help me to cope with the risky enterprise of making my own experience both fictional and public

Artistic Engagement 
Session One, 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee G22

Autoethnography as art practice: writing from beneath the surface

Susan Diab, School of Art, University of Brighton

I am an artist and an academic who has been teaching within Higher Education for over thirty years. It is only recently, since discovering autoethnography, that I have felt able to ‘speak’ within academic contexts. You could say autoethnography saved my academic life.

Autoethnographic practices are bridges between creative-constructive and analytical-intellectual forms of enquiry. I will reconsider previous ventures into academic writing where I dared to use the first person, and transform these from stumbling blocks into stepping-stones for reflecting upon writing from underneath as a possible position of choice. I will discuss writing and art as exploratory processes that assist me to work out what I think and how I feel about life experiences.

When writing autoethnographically, I collect mental, embodied pictures, thoughts and feelings as they occur and listen to the voices they evoke, then shape them once enough material has formed. Translating those processes I am familiar with from my art practice into the activity of writing is something of a revelation.

For this conference presentation I have been conducting an experiment where I draw and write alternately for a period of time. From this, writings and drawings have accumulated which I will edit and present in an appropriate form for the day. The critical contexts for my research are: the autoethnographic writings I have published so far, artists’ writings, autoethnographers’ uses of fictional and metaphorical forms within their work and drawing research.

Something is Happening (and you don’t know what it is): Reflections on Intuition, Memory and Autoethnography

Ben Highmore, University of Sussex

The philosopher of science, Michel Serres, described intuition as ‘that dazzling, obscure, and hard-to-define emotion’. Ethnography (and by extension) autoethnography has always had the power to treat all informants (including ourselves) as capable of providing intuitions about that world that don’t require interpretation, but instead need recognition. (Auto)Ethnography is (potentially) a radical redistribution of theory and critique suggesting that we all have unique access to critical vantage points and that we are all involved in theoretical manoeuvres. From Mass-Observation to the ‘ordinary affects’ studied and described by Kathleen Stewart, autoethnography is not just a practice but a radically democratic epistemology that alters the nature of ‘evidence’ and the privileging of interpretative power.

My work has involved treating novels, films, diaries, and my own memories as forms of autoethnography. In recent work I have been studying ‘cultural feelings’ and trying to produce composite multi-voiced autoethnographic accounts of cultural moments (black and Asian migration to the UK in the 1950s and 60s; the early years of Thatcherism and the culture of post-punk; and so on). In this paper I want to offer a sample of that project as well as providing a critical reflection about its productivity and limitations. I also want to speculate about the relationship between what the anthropologist and activist Stephen Muecke calls ‘fictocriticism’ and the possibilities of multi-voiced (auto)ethnography.

Difficult Fruit: The Native Autoethnographer as Poet

Mattieu Dominic Ramsawak, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex

Artistic engagement, utilising media such as poetry, has become a fruitful autoethnographic tool. Many researchers have highlighted the usefulness of poetry in ethnographic engagement: as methodology, it equips researchers to better engage with the complexity of lived experience; it's ability to capture the subtleties of cultural expressions makes it a fertile source of qualitative data; and the necessary active engagement of readers and listeners can take research a step closer to achieving a fundamental goal of critical feminist autoethnography- social change. In his own research, as an ethnographer returning to his native Trinidad to examine race and ethnicity 'in the everyday', the poetic craft has significantly deepened Mattieu's ability to engage with the often problematic complexity of what he deems to be his “native researcher” positionality. In this presentation, Mattieu will share poems he has written during his fieldwork, with the hope of encouraging discussion into the poetic process as relates to positionality, conceptions of the 'self', and other autoethnographic challenges.

Session Two, 14:00 - 15:30, Jubilee G22

Learning from literature and life

Dr Alison Donaldson

In a recent academic article, I used Kafka’s The Castle to stimulate my reflections on bureaucracy and written communication. Later, when I was turning the article into a book chapter for a wider readership, I wanted to bring in more of my own experience. The chapter therefore opens with a vignette describing my struggle, while working on my thesis some years earlier, to articulate a ‘point of view’ on my topic (writing in organisations). Selected scenes from The Castle come next, followed by my reflections on the themes raised by them:  unanswered messages, written instructions that get lost or ignored, and mindless documentation.

I found the shift from academic article to a more personal form required a totally different mode of thought. I almost had to make myself recall my own experience of unanswered emails and remote bosses, and to ponder whether I had ever rebelled against institutional pressures, as the protagonist does. And when writing my thesis, why was I hesitant at first to express a bold opinion (linked to being female and the youngest of five children?).

By engaging reflexively with literature in this way, I found myself taking seriously experiences  that I might otherwise have dismissed as banal. At the conference, I expect to share one or two passages of text (by Kafka and from my chapter), and to invite others to explore any associations, memories or insights these stimulate for them.

George Orwell: A Pukka Voice Amongst The Dispossessed?

Ruth Pinder

Anthropologists are taught to suppress their personal voice when they write: attention to voice is seen as narcissistic, apolitical, a distraction from surveying the external world. Neither is it anthropologists’ task to reflect on metaphor, plot – or heaven forbid – motive. Impersonal writing in plain text gives us the moral high ground.  

Writing against such claims provides an ideal space for ethnography to recover its voice. The works of George Orwell are a case in point.    One of the most committed writers about the dispossessed of his day, his voice was also controversial. The problem is, how can a writer whose commitment to telling it like it is also be charged with humbug?

I’ll concentrate on one work, Burmese Days, a semi-fictional novel about the crumbling edifice of the British Raj, to invite the following questions:in what ways was Orwell’s voice distinctive; how did he bring that voice to life; and what implications for a critique of imperialism does it still offer?  

My argument is that Orwell was the archetypal auto-ethnographer. In coming as close as any writer can to upholding the Shakespearian maxim, ‘To thine own self be true’, he urges the reader to see the world as he saw it, smell it as he smelt it, but question it as he questioned it. In reaching for that pukka voice, he encourages ethnographers to do likewise.  

Autoethnography as Research: Underwriting Infinite Jest for the Virtual Age

Amani Maihoub, Research Centre for Communication and Culture (CECC), Universidade Católica Portuguesa 

David Foster Wallace’s (1962–2008) encyclopedic novel Infinite Jest (1996) is 1,079 pages long and includes 338 endnotes. Artist Corrie Baldauf journeys through this massive text, tagging more than 2,600 references to color. In the second phase of the project, Baldauf carries on for subsequent second and third copies and turns to Twitter to share live updates on her progress through the book. This paper probes Baldauf’s artistic practice as an experiment in visual ethnography (Hall Foster, 1996). It examines her approach to reading as an exercise in visualizing obsession, filtering dystopia (Optimism Filters), and digital intimacy. Wallace voiced concern over the troubled future for fiction in the information age. As an ethnographer, Baldauf transfigures Infinite Jest for a virtual audience. I argue that her project (re)produces Infinite Jest as an auratic-interactive work of art in a playful investigation of the verbal, the visual, and the tactile (Walter Benjamin, 1936). It is an autoethnography that conflates the archival and the idiosyncratic and confuses authorship (Deborah Reed-Danahay, 1997). Understood as such, this paper highlights the redemptive power of autoethnography as a mode of artistic production.

Session Three, 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee G22

Silent mothers: women, class, and voices of transformation

Dr Katherine Collins, Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, Wolfson College 

If there was a character in a film, and that character was small and insignificant, the camera might take an aerial shot, zooming away and upwards until the screen showed a small swirling green and blue planet, a dot in blackness. And then it would dive down again, at whirling speeds: planet, country, woods, pale face looking upwards, the weak sunlight of early spring glinting on a pair of tortoiseshell glasses. The face a blanched almond in a muddy backdrop of brown leaves, their blunt shapes interlocking like lost mittens and ivy snaking through the leaf mould, taking root like thoughts.

And if the camera raced through time, to place her in the world, what might whirl through our vision? From colour to monochrome to sepia: a girl, growing up in an important family in a mining village, getting a place at university and morphing into ‘that Welsh girl who brought no books’. A girl, growing up in a tiny cottage with a tiny mother who carried her disabled father around, who didn’t know she had been poor until she married an engineer. A girl, growing up in a big house with servants in the attic and a father who disapproved of the boy she loved, even though the boy’s family had been of the land-owning upper middle class for generations and the girl’s were newly wealthy. But the girl disobeyed and was cut off, penniless, forcing her own path through the undergrowth.

The Voices of Confinement : Ethnographic Poetry in a Research-Creation Project about the Sensorial Experience of Agoraphobia

Roseline Lambert, PhD Student – Social & Cultural Analysis, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada

I did a master’s thesis in medical anthropology about agoraphobia. This nourished my book of poetry about confinement that was published by a Montreal poetry publishing house. This poetry book is the basis of my current PhD project thesis of research-creation in anthropology and poetry on the subject of the sensorial experience of agoraphobia.

I will discuss in this presentation the preliminary results of this project in which I endeavour to build an ethnographic poetry (Maynard 2009, Elliot 2017, Rosaldo, 2001) based on my voice, in its poetic and literary dimension, and on my ethnographic research, based on the diffractive voices of my informees in the fieldwork about their experiences suffering from agoraphobia. I will try to situate how this double posture, poetic and ethnographic, forces me to continually question the stakes of auto-ethnography, my own experience and my subjectivity with regard to this disorder and the experiences of the Other. Incorporating a poetry reading performance, I will try to illustrate with this presentation how the development of an auto-ethnography using ethnographic poetry ²allows a poetic voice that is critical and theoretical.² (Maynard 2009)

Live writing: juxtaposing literary ethnography with its auto- alter ego 

Ellen Wiles, novelist, live literaturist and PhD student at the University of Stirling

In anticipation of this live autoethography event, I hereby confess that I never set out to write autoethnographically about live literary events. I never even meant to initiate the live literature project that caused a publisher to ask me to write an autoethnography about it in conjunction with ethnographies of others’ live literature events. I didn’t know that my novel would be published and lead me to be invited to perform at others’ live literature events. But my PhD research into live literature, and my concurrent novel writing endeavours, appear to have led me irrevocably to begin weaving this curious creative-critical web. So here I am, standing back from the task for a moment to examine its outline pattern and structural integrity. Does the autoethnographic strand jeopardise the legitimacy of its ethnographic strands or strengthen both? Does juxtaposition of the two necessitate a particular emphasis on critical self-evaluation, intersubjectivity and objectivity? How does all of this feed back into my own creative writing and live literature practice?

Politics and Praxis
Session One, 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 143

The role of autoethnography in social work practice and education

Dr Valerie Gant. Department of Social Work and Professional Education, University of Chester, UK

This abstract describes a paper that discusses the basis for, and potential usefulness of, autoethnography as a research method in both social work education and practice. In this presentation, I draw on my own personal experiences as a parent-carer of a child with a severe learning disability and as a qualified and registered social worker to invoke autoethnography as a method which allows for the reflection of and upon experiences in a way that draws on the literature and other methods of research, which is key to developing an understanding of broader aspects of the topic under inquiry.

While autoethnography has thus far been little used in social work practice and education, it is a methodology that offers new and different insights and opportunities to examine the impact of social workers' personal and professional identities on their practice and, ultimately, upon themselves.

This presentation makes the case for the use of autoethnography in social work education and practice. In the area of front-line social work, the use of service user and carer narratives to inform practice(s) is commonplace. However, how such narratives inform practice and impact on practitioners is less well articulated or understood, as the dominant research discourse typically privileges the use of interview processes that rarely go beyond the descriptive – and it is at this intersection that autoethnography may offer opportunities to extend the professional learning opportunities afforded by everyday practice and discourse.

Anthropology of trust in quality assurance mechanisms in a higher education institution in Hong Kong

Ginette Steffi NG, Middlesex University

This research is devoted to increasing understanding of one of key concepts in higher education sector, the notion of trust, through the educational quality assurance in Hong Kong.  

Quality becomes a very important issue in higher education institutions toward the changing global culture, however, do the launch of quality assurance mechanism reshape the purpose of pursuing tertiary education?  How does the understanding of quality of education shift the cultural practice in a mosaic of trust that is challenged be defined in highly complex social context?  The study particularly wants to focus on the presence or absence of trust contained within the artefacts produced and given to members to use to ensure that cultural practices are transmitted and in accordance with the wishes of the guardianship of the culture.

The study uses an anthropological perspective to look at trust in a higher education institute I am working which itself is a culture of practices and beliefs in a system of adaptive processes (Bateson, 1972, p. 278).  The research will use the ethnographic conversation to clarify understanding of peoples, senior management and frontline teaching members, within a diversity of cultures to better understand human behaviour through an approach which is observant and non-judgmental.   The purpose of this research is to contribute to current studies on trust in higher education and, in my role as a disseminator of the artefacts of quality assurance, to offer some insights into the language and concepts of trust and their impact to my institute culture by autoethnography.

Taking the ‘self’ seriously; pitfalls, perils, and promise

Ms. Marie A Hutton, University of Sussex

This paper examines how my own experiences of being a domestic visitor to prisons influenced my research into family contact in the prison environment.  This paper will first consider how, even where such biographical congruence (Wakeman, 2014) exists between researcher and researched, accepting and disclosing that one’s work is auto-ethnographic is by no means a neutral process.  It will explore the tensions that arise from being a ‘native’ in a discipline where the term ‘going native’ frequently denotes unprofessionalism and a lack of objectivity. The paper will then discuss the perils, pitfalls, and, most importantly, the promise of disclosing. This paper will then examine the extent to which biographical congruence confers ‘insider privilege’ and the unique dilemmas and emotional work such 'privilege' presented during the fieldwork and subsequent analysis.

Session Three, 16:00 - 17:30, Jubilee 143

The location of the cultural experience: an autoethnography

Gabriel Soler, University of Edinburgh

In this paper, I offer an autoethnographic account of how contact with a book by Donald Winnicott opened on me a significant reflection. Winnicott differentiates between health and life, stating that we need “to acknowledge openly that absence of psychoneurotic illness may be health, but it is not life” (Winnicott 1971, 100). Life is related to a meaningful existence, to inhabiting transitionality. Winnicott conceived transitionality as an experience that both entangles and differentiates fantasy and reality and is the basis for cultural experiences. While reading the text, I re-signified quotidian practices, especially when I have intense aesthetic experiences that make me feel as if I am in a dream but at the same time awake. Additionally, the reading and reflections sparked memories of when the possibility of inhabiting this paradoxical place was threatened, and the pain that it caused. In this paper, I explore these various experiences and suggest how, for me, the concept became a significant referent for thinking about present and previous experiences and their meaning. Furthermore, I examine how in the process of reading and writing about transitionality I lived a transitional experience: I put into play my fantasy and reality, my inner and outer world, intermingling and transforming them.

Writing an Autie-Ethnography:  writing through the lens of neurodiversity

Fiona Murray, University of Edinburgh

‘An activist philosophy born of a commitment to neurodiversity means refusing to situate movement in a preconstituted subject; questioning the place of volition in experience; resisting normopathy as a point of departure; embracing autistic perception.’  Erin Manning (2016:104).

Through moving image and auto-ethnographic writing this paper plugs into Erin Manning’s theory of autistic perception, speaking to the ways in which neurotypicality has framed experience and therefore how experience has been voiced. 

This piece, obsessed as it is with origins, examines the ways in which the autoethnographic “I” can be formed.  How can we give voice to experience of that which is more-than and not-yet actualised?

It is through the lens of neurodiversity that I seek to understand my entanglements with the leaky world of pornography, a world that I did not expect to have entanglements with and a world which has challenged me to shift my feminist onto-epistemological positions in the most unexpected of ways.

It questions volition in experience by talking into how we come to undertake our particular research missions, how I came to be working with the taboo and asks what happens when dust gets in our eyes. 

Up All Night – A Shared Anthropology 

Melody Howse, Visual Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

Night waking in early motherhood & fatherhood is an experience that many are familiar with, but it is rarely spoken about outside of the close circle of friends and family. But online this experience is voiced with candor. The anonymity of the avatar making it possible to be open about a time that for many defines both themselves and the transitional years of early parenthood. This presentation looks at how the online space can challenge the social norm and shed light on an experience that is sometimes felt of as extreme. How through collaboration an archive of experience can be built to generate empathy and support for parents who find themselves in the midst of sleep deprivation and the emotional, psychological and physical turmoil which can manifest as a consequence. It explores the power of the personal narrative, unique but at times overlapping to build a picture of the ‘acceptable’ boundaries of society, the shared experience and the lived realities. It further explores the role of the polyphonic voice as a method of representation and collaborative practices which act as a mode of healing and empowerment.

Day Two - Friday 16 June 2017

Autoethnography as Relational Practice
Session Five: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 135

An Artist, a Participant, and a Social Scientist Walk Into a Bar…. Creating Collaborative Poetic Autoethnographies

Helen Johnson, University of Brighton

This interactive talk explores the development of a new method of collaborative, autoethnographic research, in which social science researchers collaborate with poets and community partners to produce research outputs which are engaging, accessible, meaningful, and rooted in the interests of the communities they represent.  Initial moves towards developing this method took place at the University of McGill’s Participatory Cultures Lab in Montreal last summer.  During this time, a group of young spoken word poets and I worked together intensively as co-researchers to produce a series of poetic autoethnographies, which were focused on issues related to discrimination and privilege. These pieces were grounded in three sites of expertise: social scientific theory and research; spoken word writing and performance; and co-researchers’ personal experiences.  The project outcomes were communicated primarily through a chapbook, live spoken word show and video materials. These novel outputs enabled us to step outside the strictures of academia, reaching a broader audience than traditional research outputs allow.

In this session, I will consider both the poetic autoethnographies pilot study and the method which it served to ground. In the process I will showcase some of the poetry that was created, and run guided activities based on the ‘collaborative poetics’ method.  We will also explore potential applications and extensions of the method, and ponder difficult questions such as:

  • (How) can we conduct truly interdisciplinary research?

  • Who has the authority to create knowledge?

  • To whom should research belong?

  • And, what is research anyway?

Institutions and Selves
Session Four: 9:30-11:00, Jubilee 115

When writing cross-culturally poses antagonistic legitimacy issues

Cécile Coquet-Mokoko, Associate Professor of American and African American Studies, Université François Rabelais, Tours, France

In this paper, I attempt to share my position as a French scholar engaged in the writing for a US readership of a sociological survey of representations and self-perceptions of Black/White couples in Alabama and France while being herself a partner in such an interracial couple. The goal of this work is both to broaden the understanding of the influence of historical contexts on performances of race, gender and public display of marital life, and to escape the wariness of French academia vis-à- vis emic approaches to social sciences, let alone autoethnographic work. I perceive autoethnography as a guideline for qualitative sociology, which helps us correct tendencies from interviewees to adjust facts to their idealized reality, especially in the context of a research that they know is meant to relieve them of moral and social stigma. Yet my own racial identity as a White female often positions me at odds with the expectations of a predominantly African American readership, who tends to dismiss my viewpoint as necessarily biased by White privilege. Simultaneously, the French academic system requires me to write an intellectual autobiography whose rule of thumb is nonexistent and where I am expected to speak with as little emotional involvement as possible in my research, in order to be accepted as a full professor, worthy of supervising younger scholars’ doctoral work. I will try to show how autoethnography may be weaved between the lines of two antagonistic views of social science work.

An auto-ethnography of race, power and knowledge in the University: Juxtaposing Many Voices with my intellectual heritage

Dr Julie Botticello, The University of East London

This paper is based on my experience as a white, female lecturer in a majority black African department of students in the UK and the initiative I pioneered to redress implicit, inherent power imbalances around knowledge and experience. This is through the Many Voice Reading Group, set up a year ago to counter dominant narratives and white knowledge bases underpinning higher education systems. In particular, the aim was to overcome the exclusions these create for ‘non-dominant’ populations whose educations are predicated on Euro-American perceptions and perspectives of knowledge and power.

In doing so, the readings offered academic mentors who have created legacies of empowerment in their writings, so that students could follow their example in their own works. However, as Black British, African and African American friends and colleagues began offering suggestions for readings which I had never heard of, I began reflecting on my own education and its dominant thread of whiteness, white authorship, white perspectives, and white histories, which effectively crowded out alternative and abundant versions of the historical perspectives and life’s experiences of this ‘non- dominant’ majority.

In this paper, I wish to reflect on both aspects of this. Firstly, on the strengthening of students’ voices through the affirmation of familiar histories and their own personal stories, and, secondly, of my own journey of confronting my formalised, structurally sanctioned ignorance of cultural knowledge outside of my heritage and of relating to my students who have been oppressed by this same force.

My Story, Our Story: An Autoethnography of An Indian Woman

Angel Treesa Roni, MA Gender Studies student, University of Sussex

The session aims to discuss an intersectional approach of feminist autoethnography by exploring the daily life experiences of an Indian woman. Objectification of a woman’s body by patriarchy has been widely addressed in all discourses. However, each person perceives and reacts to an event differently. Sharing individual experiences is a powerful tool to break the stereotypes surrounding one’s identity. Autoethnography as a research method helps to compare and contrast individual and collective experiences of a group of people and thus contribute to the body of feminist epistemology. Involving participatory methods, the session analyses how societal restraints of a woman’s body affect her wellbeing and social status. The self reflexive presentation recognises the unacknowledged aspects of an Indian woman’s life for analysis and discussion in an academic platform.

Session Five: 11:30-13:00, Jubilee 115

Autoethnography in Criminological Research: Voicing Ourselves while Giving Voice to Others

Yvonne Jewkes, James Treadwell, Finola Farrant

This 3-person presentation session is concerned with three distinct but complementary pieces of socio-criminological research that share common approaches: firstly, in recognizing the value of reflexive autoethography in gaining access to data that might not otherwise be reached; and secondly, in giving a critical edge to analyses of offenders’ narratives and our own experience.

For too long, criminology has remained a peculiarly arid field of inquiry.  In contrast to the reflexive, interpretive perspectives more commonly found in, for example, anthropology and gender studies, criminology and penology have clung to the idea that in order to advance one’s academic career, one must learn to repress identification with one’s research participants and hide ‘messy’ emotions. This is odd, given that many criminologists are motivated by a deep-seated curiosity about the human condition: justices and injustices; legitimacy and illegitimacy; violence and victimization; pain and suffering; thrill-seeking and getting caught, to name but a few.  More than simply concerned with justice institutions and legal practices, then, criminology is about the dramatic, tragic, visceral and emotive. Arguably, it is the very discipline that we might expect to have something to say about our presence in the field and the motivations that drive our research. The three papers thus represent frank disclosure from a field that has been slower than other social sciences to embrace autoethnography.

The Silence in Prison Studies: ‘Owning Up’ to the Autoethnographic Dimensions of our Research in Penology

Yvonne Jewkes, Professor of Criminology, University of Brighton

While some sociologically informed criminologists have acknowledged the importance of autoethnography, reflexivity and personal disclosure in their work, scholars within prison studies have largely resisted the notion that their research has autoethnographic dimensions. That empirical work is often driven by experience, or by a strong personal interest whose origins pre-date the research project, is anecdotally voiced time and again, yet such disclosure rarely appear in published work.  This is somewhat surprising given that prison ethnographers are highly attuned to analysing the fine nuances of their research participants’ agency, identity management and survival strategies. Yet they remain silent on their own agency, identity management and survival strategies in, what for most of us, is an emotionally taxing field of study.  If such reflections are present at all, they make a slightly apologetic appearance in an appendix.

In this paper I will discuss the work of a small number of prison ethnographers who acknowledge the autoethnographic dimensions of their research studies. I will further tell the story of a personal research encounter that interwove my biography with that of one of England’s most notorious offenders, and which consequently changed my intellectual orientation and trajectory. I will argue that a more frank acknowledgment of the convergence of subject-object roles need not threaten the validity of social science – or at least it is a threat with a corresponding gain.

Getting Banged Up: Doing Reflexive Criminological (Auto)Ethnography on Violence in an English Prison

James Treadwell, Lecturer in Criminology, Birmingham City University

What might be termed ‘criminological autoethnography’ is arguably being repositioned to become less of a marginal research strategy in both criminological and prison research. This paper seeks to demonstrate how in one particular prison, during a transformative period, and as part of a team ethnography project, the author set out to attempt to make sense of prison violence and victimization.  It contends that reflexive auto-ethnography, as Wakeman (2014: 705) notes, can ‘enhance criminology’s methodological repertoire’.   It may also serve to increase the power of a revitalized critical criminology to produce critical yet realistic accounts of prison and imprisonment. 

Drawing on the fieldwork undertaken during a period of prison ethnography, it will consider how the author’s life history, biography and subjectivity informed the gathering and presentation of research data. It will argue that, while there is great value in subjective, reflexive criminological ethnography, this approach must not eclipse the very real problems that the research is frequently concerned with.  Nonetheless, the resultant realistic ‘thick description’ of the problems and realities of prison life can counter the general lack of visibility of the experience of imprisonment. Reflexive autoethnography can, then, prompt a return to questions of subjectivity and motivations of harm that criminologists should face (Hall and Winlow, 2015), while also offering the potential to provide legitimate solutions for prison policy and practice.

Dishing the Dirt: Autoethnography As Matter Out Of Place

Finola Farrant, Principal Lecturer in Criminology, University of Roehampton

Within criminology there has been a welcome re-emergence of narrative research that recognizes the centrality of stories in helping us shape our identities and make sense of the world. Nevertheless, this work tends to be unidirectional, focused on the stories of others. Exposure of the self is rarely made. The unsettling, even disturbing, aspects of research practice with those who have been identified as ‘offenders’ remains largely hidden from view.

Drawing on Douglas’s (1966/1991) work on purity and danger, this paper explores the notion of autoethnography as ‘matter out of place’. This conception of autoethnography – as related to ideas about defilement, danger, purity, and taboo – particularly resonates with criminology, a discipline that is itself imbued with such concepts. Thinking about autoethnography in this way opens up discussion of how such writing is too often perceived as a by-product of criminological research rather than an integral part of it.

If we reconfigure our perception of knowledge as involving multiple stories, including our own, then viscous connections between research findings and autoethnography emerge. The story of the researcher mingles and mixes with the stories of others. In doing so, concerns about research contamination are inverted, and what would normally be perceived as polluting, spoiling, or dirtying research endeavour can instead be embraced as offering the potential to gain a fuller insight into the human experience.

Bodies and Senses
Session Four: 9:30 - 11:00, Jubilee G31

This session has been cancelled. Melody Howse, Up All Night – A Shared Anthropology, will now be presenting in Politics and Praxis session 3 on Day 1.

Session Five: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee G31

The autophenomenography of erotic resonance  - exploring heteronormativity in psychotherapy

Adam Kincel, PhD candidate at University of Brighton, UKCP registered psychotherapist

How do we embody societal concerns and prejudices? We are all born into a cultural and heteronormative field which shapes our lives and bodies. The societal pressures to fix gender and sexual orientation have a direct impact on how we are embodied. Judith Butler argues for the fluidity of gender and sexual orientation, but how can psychotherapists achieve it? The intersubjective relational turn in psychotherapy removed the psychoanalytic neutrality of a psychotherapist, however, when the therapists brought themselves more fully into the therapeutic interaction they struggled to talk about sexuality. From being one of the main concepts of early psychoanalysis, sexuality is rarely explored and researched in relational psychoanalytic approaches.

In my autophenomenographic research, I explore the impact of heteronormativity on my body and the structure of psychotherapeutic dialogue. I examine the fear of litigation, cultural rigidity and heteronormativity as possible reasons why touch, intimacy and erotic energy are avoided both in the counselling room and the day to day interactions. I propose to transfer the methodological integration of phenomenological and ethnographic approaches into the ongoing training of psychotherapists. In the intersubjective realms of a therapeutic encounter shared awareness of co-emergent bodily sensations, culture and the relationship is a gateway to intimacy and dialogue. That shared awareness may include erotic sensations, heteronormative assumptions and past traumatic relationships.

Bringing my experience as a psychotherapeutic trainer, I will invite the participants to safely explore through visualisations and discussions in pairs how their sexuality may be structured and impact on their bodies.

Experimentation and Autoethnography
Session Four: 9:30 - 11:00, Jubilee G36

My American Dream: A Journey for Tracking an Ideal Home

Yin-Chia Liu, Min-chun Chiang, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

This Autoethnography is a journey of my life about exploring my ideal American dream. It described and analyzed my transformations and accomplishments in the story.

At the beginning, I struggled in my parents’ relationship because of their divorce in my childhood. Later, I dealt with the confusion of the meaning of success. I chose to chase my American dream by pretending that it would be the ultimate safe haven for me. By earning the chance to be an exchange student in Oklahoma for one year, I eventually achieved my long-awaited dream of traveling to Time Square in New York City. I now realize that no matter how far I go, my family back in my hometown is always there.

Beyond Our Adler: A Two-voiced Collaborative Autoethnography

Yu-Wen Wang, Yen-Yu Lin, Min-chun Chiang, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

Completed by Yen-Yu and Yu-Wen, as the two of them shared similar experiences in their lives. It all started with simple conversations between the girls. Then they exchanged diaries to explore their deep consciousness. They encouraged each other to face challenges and accepted weakness. Through time, they learned to comfort each other. Following the paths of the research, Coming Unhinged: A Twice-Told Multivoiced Autoethnography, 2017, they made a round-way analysis and enjoyed helping each other. They constructed their similar experiences as short stories in a juxtaposed craft, and concluded their psychological levels according to Adler. Eventually, they gave each other supports and encouragements. They realized the true value of their lives.

An Undeliverable Letter: My Autoethnography about the Dilemma of Adolescent Friendship

Tzu-Yun Chen, Min-chun Chiang, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

This autoethnography is a story from my adolescence in facing a dilemma of friendship. In this autoethnography, I used aconfession letter to express the experiences and feelings of the struggle. Additionally, I reflected andintrospected in order to analyze and figure out the whole situation. There are three parts in the article. The first two titles are contained in the letter: 1.There was something you did not know, and 2. Besides, the story is an endless karma. The last part is designed as an appendix in the letter.

Recalling the experiences from distinct aspects, the reflection of the story attempts to manifest my efforts to face myself. Much like the peeling process of an onion, I slowly discovered my self-identity. Eventually, I would like to express the deepest thoughts in my mind by facing my “true” self.

Session Five: 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee G36

Gardening of Love: An Autoethnography of a Tragedy

Po-fei Kao, Min-chun Chiang, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

This Autoethnography describes the tragedies associated with a female victim of violence. The girl had her marriage in her early-twenties. Before getting a better understanding of the man, she mired herself into a marriage. For her, there were somany difficulties that she could not leave the man while she was suffering from the mental and physical abuses. After several years, she eventually had an epiphany of escaping from the disaster after overcoming several difficult decisions.

The writer attempts to indicate the difficulties she encounters, and helplessly plays different roles (a wife, a mother and a daughter). As an autoethnographer, she expects to convey the story while triggering the value of empathy and the essence of love.

Chasing for a Dream, Leaving with Encouragement: My Autoethnography of Farewell for Studying Abroad

Yen-Tong Liau, Min-chun Chiang, Jer-Shiuan Tan, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

This is an autoethnography about a 19-year-old Malaysian, who made a decision to study abroad in Taiwan. In the literal form of counting down before leaving motherland, the writer conveys the reluctant feeling of separating from his family members, classmates and friends. In the later text of narratives, the writer pointed out the cultural shock, cultural differences, and the difficulties of adaptation. This autoethnography brings out the voices of a young man about chasing dreams, establishing achievements and self-encouragements. The story reveals the values of kinship, friendship, love, empathy, understanding, and encouragements.

Fighting the Depression with Amy:An Altered Battlefield as Taekwondo Players

Cian-Yi Yang, Min-chun Chiang, Hsin-Yu Su3, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

I was a Taekwondo player. The strict training of athletes’ spirits affected my life philosophies deeply. In my story, my talented Taekwondo friend suffered from Depression. Having experienced many contests and matches enlightened the courage and bravery. The story was set up in six sections: A Decision, An Encounter, The Depression,The Contact, The Reconnection, and The Battlefield. I hope this story can be not only a simple autoethnography, but also a consolation for those who are in a time of distress or sadness.

A Beauty and Two Beasts: An Autoethnography of Self-Healing Fantasy

Wen-Hsuan Lin, Min-chun Chiang, University of Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan

This is my self-healing quest, which represents my consciousness of fantasy. When I was young, my parents fought in front of me frequently. I imagined them as monsters in this autoethnography. I felt that their love is untouchable to me, like the thrones of roses. As soon as I blocked my mind from the outside world, it became a rose garden. My mom was very depressing, and made me scared and helpless. It took a long time to recover from my desolation. Finally, I am strong enough to face to my parents. The wound has eventually healed through time. I realize that it is a kind of Roseola Infantum of my early life, realizing the value of enduring my illness with great fortitude.

Space and Mobility 
Session Four, 9:30 - 11:00, Jubilee 118

The Origin Tapes: An Autoethnographic Study of Media, Migration, and Memory

Beina Xu, Freie Universität Berlin, Visual & Media Anthropology

The Origin Tapes is an essay film borne from the discovery of a stash of unseen VHS tapes recording my migration from China to the U.S. in the 1980s. They contained images of landmark moments in personal and collective history: the first time I meet my father, as well as footage of the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989. Spellbound, I embarked on an emotionally arduous process to digitize and watch them for the first time.

As a body of research, this project is about examining our own subjectivities and their fractured, mundane representations. I wish to explore three central themes raised by this encounter with visual vestiges of the past: medium, memory, and history. What kind of knowledge do the tapes produce, and how does it affect my understanding of my past—and thus my present? Moreover, what is created in the act of viewing? I want to examine our relationship to the artifacts of our personal lives: how we understand ourselves through the audiovisual media we generate and consume.

Inspired by filmmakers like Chris Marker, Chantal Akerman, Naomi Kawase and Jonas Mekas, the project is an autoethnographic endeavor undertaken with the belief that by examining ourselves, we challenge long-standing conventions about what constitutes knowledge. It is a meditation on what can happen when we hold to the lens to our own lives, and cast this subjectivity into spotlight. As Catherine Russell articulated it best, “The imperial eye looking back on itself is also a subject in history” (Russell 1999:277). 

Session Five, 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee 118

Home Movie: film followed by discussion

Caroline Pick

Caroline Pick is an artist, film-maker and former commissioning editor at the BBC and Channel Four. When she cleared her cupboards in a recent house move she found many cans of 8mm and 16mm movies that she had stored for 50 years but never viewed. The cans turned out to be  home movie footage her father had shot between the 1930s in Czechoslovakia and the 1960s in Britain. Gradually from behind the happy images the film hints at something unspoken: snatches of those left behind, of silence about the past, of absences unexplained. ‘Home Movie’ is a story of immigration, assumed identities and secrets. 18 close family members lost ...and never mentioned. Caroline Pick unearths the story that her parents hid.

Through Q and As after the film, the discussion will cover topics such as the representation of self, the narrative voice, the healing experience of looking at the self in a family context.

Politics and Praxis
Session Four, 9:30 - 11:00, Jubilee G22

Holding Intersubjectivity

J. Karen Serra U. Doctoral researcher in the program of Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Edinburgh

In this autoethnography, I will offer my thoughts on my experiences, as both a patient and as a daughter, in the light of my reading of Jessica Benjamin’s intersubjectivity theory. In my first experience of being in therapy, years before my reading of Benjamin, I was surprised by the way in which my psychotherapist situated me as a victim of harmful family dynamics. Sometimes I was a little annoyed, I could tell him about moments in which I thought I hurt others and he would always find the angle in which I was behaving motivated by my difficult context. This new way of relating with my psychotherapist allowed me to cry, to be mad, to give weight to my feelings. I felt it like a recognition: ‘your perceptions are valid’. I was being recognised in my feelings, a vital part of intersubjectivity. But I was recognised as a victim, position which facilitated an enormous amount of anger towards my dad; he was responsible for my suffering. Now I think that the recognition that my psychotherapist gave me, facilitated a doer-done to relation with my dad. When I started to read on intersubjectivity, another possibility of relating emerged.  A very difficult possibility to hold, which is, recognising my dad without neglecting myself. Do I consider a doer-done to relation as the opposite of an intersubjective relation? Was my recognition as a victim enabling for intersubjectivity? Which possibilities are opened to me as I embrace intersubjectivity and doer-done to relations?

If Once I Lost Myself in Another - Could I find myself through another too?

Melissa Dunlop, Doctoral Researcher, School of Health in Social Science, Department of Counselling, Psychotherapy & Applied Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh

This paper voices my experience of seeking my authentic self, after the long, hard ending of a relationship through which my identity had become simply “other”. I felt myself falsely represented: lost, even to myself. I questioned the role of relationships, personal and therapeutic, in supporting or hindering a sense of authentic self-identity, and the extent to which one can have agency over who one is or becomes. My inquiry was both an act of faith in and a challenge to the therapeutic process: I needed it to work for my own contentment, but also so I could feel confidence in the validity of my relationally-oriented psychotherapeutic training, which seemed hard to prove other than by testing it personally.

Using heuristic and imaginal approaches to self-inquiry, I tracked my progress over eighteen-months as I relinquished my socially-constructed couple-self, and tried to re-imagine (or remember) the self I might have been had things been different. I intuitively sought the relational, therapeutic support I needed to help me become the person I wanted to be (or in fact, was) and through trust in another’s presence, entered liminal spaces, exploring beyond my lived experience, in the realms of my longed-for experiences. Letting go of certainty, I was freed to contact and hold dear an older (younger) sense of self and to find conscious connection with a perspective, force of will, and sense of narrative cohesion that felt… like… me.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose – an individual’s experiences of the diagnostic culture

Ann-Mari Lofthus, PhD student, Division for Mental Health, Research and Development Department, Akershus University Hospital, Norway

Our society may be defined as a diagnostic culture, in the sense that psychiatric diagnoses are widely used as the main explanations for the human mind’s adversity.  Diagnoses started out as tools for professionals to treat mental ‘illness’ They  have now become dominant and widespread explanations of diversity and out of the norm behaviour. The diagnostic culture defines individuals’ lives and as such bears on fundamental questions to do with human rights and  autonomy .

Having given hundreds of lectures sharing my experiences of mental distress, I recognise  the need for counterweighing the biomedical  model that dominates the mental health field. There are only few Norwegian studies that explore a (former) service user’s views on the psychosocial paradigm, and look critically at the experience of living with psychiatric diagnosis This involves loss of economic and social rights, as well as risks relating to medication, stigma, discrimination and disqualification.

In a book project that is still in its initial phase, I will use  autoethnography to examine my journey in and out of mental health treatment. I will explore Norwegian society’s one-sided use of psychiatric diagnoses and the consequences for individuals. This will be an important contribution to the ongoing debates in the mental health field in Norway.

Session Five, 11:30 - 13:00, Jubilee G22

Bearing Witness: Autoethnographical Animation and the Metabolism of Trauma 

Susan Young, Animation Department, Royal College of Art

This presentation examines how autoethnographic animation may help metabolise psychological trauma.

My practice reflexively explores feelings of violation and dehumanisation arising from experiences of interpersonal violence, psychiatric diagnostic labelling and abuse of power in doctor-patient relationships.

I initially appreciated the ‘othering’ reported by many in the mental health system on being handed my first CPA Review form.

I was now: ‘client has a diagnosis of a major enduring mental illness’ (tick in the box). This imposed identity was traumatic, and I began to feel increasingly depersonalised, fragmented and voiceless. Desperate to regain my sense of self, agency and creativity, I began to study animation’s capacity to explore traumatic experiences.

Autoethnography provides a critical framework through which I can bear witness to these experiences. Using myself as a case study, I reinterpret personal legal and medical texts through film experiments, and by animating these texts I reappropriate and critique clinical language previously used to ascribe to me various ‘othered’ and stigmatising identities, such as that of the ‘manipulative borderline’. This use of autoethnographic animation avoids explicit (and perhaps reductionist) indexical representations of personal experiences whilst allowing for the exploration of trauma-related emotions through an animated language that is visceral, symbolic and poetic.

During this presentation I will screen a film experiment and discuss how my practice might facilitatedialogue regarding issues of transference, countertransference and the imbalance of power between patient and clinician.

Becoming chronically ill: from diagnosis to treatment, a patient perspective on medical care

Dr. Fabiene Gama, Anthropology, Universidade de Brasília

In 2014 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease we know little about: a neurological disease that produces weakness, fatigue and a wide range of motor, sensory and visual symptoms without cure. If having a chronic illness is more and more expected to be an individual and personal task, it is experienced through the mediating structures of society. I discovered what it meant to be chronically ill by dealing with medical care. This learning occurred intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. And despite of my intention to understand what was happening to me and make the decisions for myself, my experiences were seen as part of a process (full of physical interventions) that I should just accept and go through. A kind of behaviour I had difficulties to have, very different from my previous life experience. This paper addresses the implications of being an active patient. What happens when the patient and the doctor disagree about the best treatment to follow? How do doctors deal with the knowledge coming from other areas of study? To ponder about this process, I will go through the diaries I wrote and the images - photos, X-rays, resonances and other laboratory images - I made/receive during the first treatments to reflect on my medical care experience. My aim is to examine how the vocabulary and the behaviour of physicians toward the patient facilitates or hampers the patient's experience with a chronic illness.

‘Returning’ to Park House: Critical autoethnography as mad activism within Academia?

Dr Konstantina Poursanidou, King's College London

Drawing on critical autoethnographic research looking at mental health service user involvement in University-based research, and an ethnographic study of a quality improvement programme aiming at reducing violence in inpatient mental health care, this paper will seek to reflect critically on the ways in which I have been using my autobiography (my ‘personal troubles’) to inform critical social analysis and develop theoretical understandings of broader ‘public issues’ (Wright Mills, 1959). The paper will discuss how I have used my lived experience of mental distress and of coercive and violent practices in inpatient psychiatric care, on the one hand, and my subjectivity as a service user researcher involved in University-based mental health research, on the other, as instruments of knowing (Hollway, 2011) and entry points with a view to troubling and achieving a critical understanding of wider social phenomena, such as violence on inpatient psychiatric wards and service user involvement in mental health research. I will examine how I have attempted – from a service user-led research perspective emphasising ‘the essentially partisan and political nature of user controlled research, committed to improving people’s lives…’ (Beresford, 2005, p.6) -to use critical autoethnographic research as a form of ‘subversive story-telling’ (Ewick and Silbey, 1995), as a counter-narrative, and arguably as a kind of mad activism within Academia. Lastly, the paper will seek to interrogate how we can respond to dominant assumptions that the impartiality, detachment, dispassionate attitude and value-fee intellectual interests expected of researchers are situated in opposition to the subjective/emotional engagement of activists, rendering research and activism fundamentally incompatible.

Keynote Two: 14:00 - 15:00, Jubilee Lecture Theatre

Voicing experience through three waves of engagement

Kitrina Douglas, Boomerang-project and Leeds Beckett University

Through a crack in the heavens lightening fired across a silent sky.

Do not meddle, do not reveal trouble beneath, resist from these illuminations, do not counsel, alert, caution, leave vessels on the course I have charted, do not challenge the master

Rain bore down, more lightening flashed, the ground shook, wind blew, cresting waves formed. But their passage was broken high on the walls of the lighthouse. Ignoring the storm’s anger, rage, fury and resentment her beam shone and the pulse of her radar remained undeterred, illuminating an alternative passage, providing warning signs, and while she was but one signal among many in the waves of this ocean, do not underestimate the relief brought by the trace of her beam. 

voicing; utter, tone, texture, sound, express, amplify, expand, intensify, strengthen, extend

experience; knowing, acquired insights, embodied wisdom, sense, consciousness

the heart whispers

do not withdraw from using

your most powerful tools

a story, poem, performance or song;

why gird your life

with a compass

oriented to his master’s strengths?

the head responds

but should not I encourage, support and reveal

through a talk

filled with plainly put arguments?

the heart whispers back

yes, but not by adopting

embodied practices built to extend his kingdom,

trust what we know, trust your voice

Kitrina Douglas, PhD.,

I have what is often referred to as a “portfolio” career. I played professional golf of the European tour winning a dozen tour events. I spent a decade working as a commentator, and presenter for BBC radio-five-live and the satellite tv channel Eurosport. I’m currently Director of the, a small arts-based network which supports public engagement and performance of social science research. With Professor David Carless I have co-direct/produced 17 research based films and the qualitative research series “Qualitative Conversations” available on youtube. Together we’re in the process of writing our third academic book, “Doing Arts-Based Research”. As an independent scholar I’ve conducted research for a variety of organisations including the Department of Health (UK) UK sport, Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, the Addiction Recovery Agency and NHS trusts. Since 2012 I’ve had a fractional contract at Leeds Beckett University where they very kindly named me Researcher of the Year in 2014.

Links to films

These things (2015);

The Blue Funnel Line (2015).;

Across The Tamar: Three poems (2015). long run (2014). .

Additional shared plenary with Life History and Life Writing Research: Critical and Creative Approaches
Shared plenary, Voicing Experience, 16:00-17:00, Jubilee 144

Lyn Thomas and Clare Best: 'Life-writing, photography and the resilient body:  Annie Ernaux's and Marc Marie’s The Uses of Photography and Clare Best’s Self-portrait without Breasts'

In this session we will discuss two auto-ethnographic projects involving photography and literary writing: Self-Portrait without Breasts by Sussex-based poet Clare Best in collaboration with photographer Laura Stevens, and L’Usage de la Photo by French writer Annie Ernaux and Marc Marie. The texts share the theme of responses to a life-threatening illness, and the body-changing treatments undergone: Self-Portrait without Breasts is the story of Clare Best’s experience of addressing genetic breast cancer, while Annie Ernaux was being treated for breast cancer at the time of her relationship with Marc Marie, and of writing L’Usage. The book results from Ernaux’s and Marie’s practice of taking photographs of ‘landscapes after love’ – the clothes they had discarded in the height of passion. They decided to write separately about fourteen of the strangely evocative images they produced, and to publish the black and white photographs and parallel texts in book form. Clare Best coped with risk-reducing double mastectomy by keeping detailed journals, making body casts and having herself photographed by Laura Stevens before and after surgery. The thirty-two poems in Self-portrait without Breasts then emerged during the following few years. In both cases there is a desire to bring a common but often culturally invisible experience to light, and to find resilience through creativity, artistic companionship and an engagement with the erotic.

Chair: Margaretta Jolly with responses from Jamie Barnes, Mike Hayler, Ross Wignall