4. Autoethnography

There are many research methods out there and there are many that support a more narrative perspective.  After having taken a course on research through the Taos Institute, I realized that the idea of autoethnography resonated with the work I was hoping to do.  So, in this section, I will explain autoethnography and how I intend to apply this form of research to my project.  It is important to remember that this project is a place for me to reflect on my actions and reactions in work situations.  When I started this project, I worked in a mental health facility with seniors who have reactive behaviours because of the effects of dementia.

At that time, I was a part of a multidisciplinary team that worked together to develop plans and treatment strategies to help our patients return to the community (either home or facilitated care facilities).  We balanced the safety of our patients with other residents and staff of the receiving facility.  I will describe my role in various interactions with others on the team either individually or in team settings and use an autoethnographic approach to analyze these interactions to determine my ability to respond in a collaborative anti-oppressive manner and its effectiveness in the situation.  It was apparent that an analytic form of autoethnography would best suit my purposes.

What it is

There are five key features of analytic autoethnography that I will include as progress through my analysis.  I will be a complete member (not simply a researcher or observer).  I will undertake an analytic reflexivity of my role and perhaps those of others.  There will also be a visible ‘researcher’.  I will be part of the narratives I share.  There will likely be some dialogue with informants beyond myself as I look at my actions in various situations.  I will also be committed to a theoretical analysis of my skills and approaches. (Anderson L. , 2006)

It is important to remember that reflexivity involves an awareness of not just my actions but others in various settings.  What I will discuss is the relational or the reciprocal influence between myself, the setting and my colleagues.  I will be engaging in a self-conscious introspection because I want to better understand both myself and others by examining my actions and perceptions in reference to and in dialogue with those of others. (Anderson L. , 2006)

McNamee and Hosking (2012) said in relation to autoethnography:

We are not talking and writing about a particular inquiry technique or strategy. We are, instead, performing inquiry. We are living and acting and being relational in our everyday engagements. McNamee & Hosking, 2012, p 111

It is these lived experiences that I will examine and discuss as I remain committed to an analytic agenda. I will be providing an “insider’s perspective,” and evoke emotional resonance with readers. I will also find empirical data to gain insight into a broader set of social phenomena than those provided by the data. (Anderson L. , 2006)

Potential of this Process

It is possible that through these descriptions and analysis of the situations my colleagues and I face I might find a political dimension.  I might help to reclaim voices (mine and perhaps our patients’ or families’) and possibly break silences by introducing other insider perspectives on societal issues. We might co-create alternative stories for patients and their families who have been marginalized during their hospitalization. (Visse & Niemeijer, 2016)

Liggins, Kearns and Adams believe that:

autoethnography has been under-used and underexamined in health geography and in psychiatry. As a methodology, and as a form of presentation, it (autoethnography) has enormous and untapped potential, complementing and extending previous attempts to honour narrative, demanding reflexivity and encouraging both researcher and reader to engage emotionally as well as cognitively. Liggins, Kearns, & Adams, 2013, p. 108

Autoethnography can be a means of communication about intangible and complex feelings and as a means of describing experiences that cannot be told in conventional ways. (Muncey, 2010) This idea resonates as I have read many methods of organizational change, and our organization has applied many of them, however, at times, it seems, that these fall short of meeting the needs of the employees who work with our patients on a day to day basis.

Caveats to this Process

I will not be assuming to provide complete access to the culture on my program at this hospital.  Nor will I presume to have all the perspectives of the patients and their families.  I do share some attributes with my colleagues and perhaps some of the families.  I cannot speak for all my colleagues or patients, all I can do is provide my insight and describe my role in any given situation. (Foster, McAllister, & O’Brien, 2005)

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the work that follows will be about me. It will be about how I have contributed to the dialogue and to collaboration.  It will be about my ability to stay faithful to anti-oppressive practices.  It will not be about my colleagues’ abilities or lack of abilities.


Therefore, I have chosen an analytic autoethnographic process for this project.  This will give me a forum on which to look at my practice and see where its strengths and challenges lie.  Also, with the invitation (at a later point) for others to join in conversation with me, an opportunity to locate other voices who work in similar settings and find “there’s more than one voice, singing in the darkness”. (Manilow, 1979)

The ‘Ethical Considerations’ will be discussed in the next section.  The process will be presented itself has not been developed as of July 2020. My goal is to develop these in January 2021.

Continue to Ethical Considerations or return to Anti-Oppressive Practice or Home.

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