Autoethnographies: Feminist Ways of Worldmaking
Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research that reflexively turns the lens back onto the writer. Differing from conventional ethnographic methods, autoethnography does not investigate ‘the other’ in foreign cultures but the self in relation to the supposedly other. Exploring anecdotal and personal experience, this method focuses on non-academic, corporeal forms of knowledge. Telling an autobiographical story, the method seeks to connect singular experiences to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. Autoethnography emerged in the 1970s among scholars of colour and feminists as a challenge to the prevailing scholarship and has grown in popularity since the 1990s. Autoethnographic works have a decidedly political approach, they aim at describing and at the same time changing the social structures they strive to describe.
Creating an autoethnography demands a radically different approach to the subject, an empathetic, emotional and corporeal approach. In their article ‘Analysing Analytical Autoethnography’ from 2006, Carolyn Ellis and Arthur P. Bochner describe this approach with the following words: „It needs the researcher to be vulnerable and intimate. Intimacy is a way of being, a mode of caring, and it shouldn’t be used as a vehicle to produce distanced theorizing.”
There are many parallels between the method of autoethnography and the principles of art-making. The focus on the body as primary instrument to experience the world and create knowledge, makes this method particularly interesting for the field of experimental dance. In this seminar, we will explore possible forms of writing an autoethnography and thereby investigate, how artistic and academic knowledge intertwine. Looking at examples from social research, literature and dance studies, we will trace the method’s political implications and its relevance for the field of experimental dance. Leading questions are: How can the method of autoethnography be used to theorize about artistic processes? Where does writing a text and creating a performance overlap and / or differ from each other? How can we create corporeal, feminist ways of theorizing?