Questions of Culture in Autoethnography  book cover
1st Edition

Questions of Culture in Autoethnography

ISBN 9781138919587
Published May 29, 2018 by Routledge
206 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Autoethnography allows researchers to make sense of the ‘ethno’ – the cultural – by studying their own experiences – the ‘auto’. It links the self to the cultural, allowing for an inductive grounding of theoretical insight into researchers' lived experiences. But what happens when the culture that we research is not conventionally or entirely our ‘own’? What happens when our culture does not neatly conceptualise the ‘auto’ as an individual, Western self? And does autoethnographic writing risk reducing cultural ‘Others’ if we cannot help but see them through ‘imperial eyes’?

Questions of Culture in Autoethnography showcases how cross-cultural autoethnographies might be done effectively, ethically, and reflectively. Chapters include: identity work among Tibetans in India and among the descendants of Spanish conquistadores in Appalachia; insider/outsider identities in myriad contexts from Mexico to Japan; embodied (gendered, raced, sized) intercultural experiences from Samoa to Aotearoa/New Zealand and from Canada to Malawi; and language stories from Korea to Singapore and from Somalia to Australia. It also explores cultural Otherness within ‘a’ culture, including researchers’ accounts of working with Indigenous Australians, of contesting mainstream cultural narratives from a body positive perspective, and as a US American man in New Zealand’s ‘bloke culture’, only seemingly sharing the same English-language-speaking, 'Western' culture.

For all scholars of qualitative methods and autoethnography, the book has a dual purpose – to show and to tell. It presents evocative autoethnographies of and about ‘culture’, as it is variously understood, and discusses the issues inherent in autoethnographic writing.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. On the difficulties of writing about culture in autoethnography Phiona Stanley & Greg Vass

Chapter 2. "Help me": The English language and a voice from a Korean Australian living in Singapore Hyejeong Ahn

Chapter 3. Personal instructions on how to remain a stranger to enforce a sociological perspective Silvia Bénard Calva

Chapter 4. Writing flows: The self as fragmentary whole David Bright

Chapter 5. Searching for ‘my’ Mexico: An autoethnographic account of unlearning and relearning about the limits of knowing the Other Alice Cranney

Chapter 6. Negotiating the vā: The ‘self’ in relation to others and navigating the multiple spaces as a New Zealand-raised Tongan male David Fa’avae

Chapter 7. Scene, seen, unseen Fetaui Iosefo

Chapter 8. How do ‘we’ know what ‘they’ need? Learning together through duoethnography and English language teaching to immigrant and refugee women Ulrike Najar & Julie Choi

Chapter 9. Performing problematic privilege in Japan Gabrielle Piggin

Chapter 10. Nuanced "culture shock": Local and global "mate" culture Robert E. Rinehart

Chapter 11. In which I am sung to, cry, and other suchlike: Reflections on research in and with Tibetan refugees in India Harmony Siganporia

Chapter 12. Walking to heal or walking to heel? Contesting cultural narratives about fat women who hike and camp alone Phiona Stanley

Chapter 13. Reading Shiva Naipaul: A reflection on Brownness and leading an experiential learning project in Malawi C. Darius Stonebanks

Chapter 14. Untangling me: Complexifying cultural identity Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs

Chapter 15. Whose story is it anyway? Reflecting on a collaborative research project with/in an educational community Greg Vass, Michelle Bishop, Katherine Thompson, Pauline Beller, Calita Murray, Jane Tovey & Maxine Ryan

Chapter 16. Six tales of a visit to Chile: An autoethnographic reflection on ‘questions of culture’ Esther Fitzpatrick


About the authors


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Phiona Stanley and Greg Vass (UNSW Sydney, School of Education) are critical, qualitative researchers working on various aspects of interculturality. They have each worked in various countries and have published and supervised doctoral students in international education, Indigenous education, and language education.


"Phiona Stanley and Greg Vass make a valuable contribution to the academic community in their exploration of ethical writing practices for autoethnographers. [.] I recommend this book in particular to readers who are writing about culture and exploring ways to insert themselves into their stories ethically. Additionally, this book offers critical contributions to the field which serves as a reflection of robust-ness and rigour within the method."

Tara McGuinness, University College Dublin