Autoethnography and social work: Strange bedfellows or complementary partners?
Keywords:autoethnography, social work
Abstract: Despite autoethnography’s congruence with social work’s values and aims, such as its focus on social justice and marginalized lives, there has been a dearth of publications using autoethnography in social work journals and books. Possible reasons for this situation include the dominance of conventional research, institutional barriers, and the challenges of conducting an autoethnographic study such as writing in a more reflexive, literary, and narrative style. I describe the strengths of autoethnography in relation to social work research, practice, and education, using examples from my early experiences with autoethnography and my later use of autoethnography as an approach to educational enrichment. Although autoethnography has much to offer social work and should assume a more prominent position as an approach to inquiry and professional development, I question whether this will occur without changes to current academic, institutional, and philosophical views. Nevertheless, focusing attention on autoethnography as in this special issue seems like a promising development.
Adams, T. E. (2017) Autoethnographic responsibilities. International Review of Qualitative Research, 10, 1, 62–66.
Adams, T. E., Ellis, C., and Holman Jones, S. (2017) Autoethnography. In J. Matthes (General Editor), C. S. Davis and R. F. Potter (Eds) The International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods. NY: John Wiley & Sons (pp. 1-11).
Bauman, Z. (1993) Postmodernity, or living with ambivalence. In J. P. Natoli and L. Hutcheon (Eds.) A Postmodern Reader, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press (pp. 9-14).
Blau, J. (2017) Science as a strategy for social work. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 28, 2,73–90.
Boylorn, R. M. and Orbe, M. P. (2021) Becoming: A critical autoethnography on critical autoethnography. Journal of Autoethnography, 2, 1, 5–12.
Bruner, J. (1991) The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18, 1, 1-21.
Dean, J. (2017). Doing Reflexivity: An introduction. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
Dashper, K. (2015) Revise, resubmit and reveal? An autoethnographer’s story of facing the challenges of revealing the self through publication. Current Sociology, 63, 4, 511-527.
Deitering, A. (2017) Introduction: Why autoethnography? In A. Deitering, R. Schroeder and R. Stoddart (Eds.) The Self as Subject: Autoethnographic Research into Identity, Culture, and Academic Librarianship. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries (pp. 1-22).
Denshire, S. (2014) On auto-ethnography. Current Sociology Review, 62, 6, 831–850.
Denzin, N. K. (2011) The politics of evidence. In N. K. Denzin and I. S. Lincoln (Eds.) The Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4 ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 645-657.
Denzin, N. K. (2021) – Section introduction: Challenges and futures of autoethnography. In T. E. Adams, S. Holman Jones and Carolyn Ellis (Eds) Handbook of Autoethnography. NY: Routledge (pp. 291-294).
Donahue, A. B. (2000). Riding the mental health pendulum: Mixed messages in the era of neurobiology and self-help movements. Social Work, 45, 5, 427-438.
Ellis, C. (2004) The Ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethngraphy. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.
Ellis, C., and Bochner, A. P. (2000) Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.) Handbook of qualitative research, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage (pp. 733-768).
Forber-Pratt, A. J. (2015) “You’re going to do what?” Challenges of autoethnography in the academy. Qualitative Inquiry, 21, 9, 821–835.
Frank, A. W. (2010) Letting Stories Breathe: A socio-narratology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gergen, K. J. (1990) Toward a postmodern psychology. Humanistic Psychologist, 18, 1, 23–34.
Gergen, K. J. (2015) From mirroring to world‐making: Research as future forming. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 45, 3, 287-310.
Gergen, K. J. (2016). Toward a visionary psychology The Humanistic Psychologist, 44, 1, 3–17.
Goldenberg, M. J. (2006) On evidence and evidence-based medicine: Lessons from the philosophy of science. Social Science & Medicine, 62, 2621–2632.
Gupta, A. (2017) Learning from others: An autoethnographic exploration of children and families social work, poverty and the capability approach. Qualitative Social Work, 16, 4, 449–464.
Hernandez-Carranza, G., Carranza, M., and Grigg, E. (2021) Using auto-ethnography to bring visibility to coloniality. Qualitative Social Work, 20, 6, 1517-1535.
Holman Jones, S. (2016) Living bodies of thought: The “critical” in critical autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 22, 4, 228–237.
Holman Jones, S. (2018) Creative selves/creative cultures: Critical autoethnography, performance, and pedagogy. In S. Holman Jones and M. Pruyn (Eds.) Creative selves/creative cultures. London: Palgrave Macmillan (pp. 3-20).
Huff, D. (1998). Every picture tells a story, Social Work, 43, 6, 576–583.
Krumer-Nevo, M (2009) Four scenes and an epilogue autoethnography of a critical social work agenda regarding poverty. Qualitative Social Work, 8, 3, 305–320.
Lapadat, J. C. (2017) Ethics in autoethnography and collaborative autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 23. 8, 589–603.
Mezirow, J. (2009). Transformative learning theory. In J. Mezirow, E. W. Taylor, &
Associates (Eds.), Transformative learning in practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Modjeska, D (2006) Reach out and touch somebody. The Australian Higher Education Supplement, 13, 30–31.
Oswald, A. G., Bussey, S., Thompson, M. and Ortega-Williams, A. (2022) Disrupting hegemony in social work doctoral education and research: Using autoethnography to uncover possibilities for radical transformation. Qualitative Social Work, 21, 1, 112-128.
Pfau, H. (2007). To know me now. Qualitative Social Work, 6, 4, 397-410.
Richardson, L. (2003). New writing practices in qualitative research. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17, 5-20.
Ronai, C. R. (1996). My mother is mentally retarded. A. P. Bochner and C. Ellis (Eds.) Composing Ethnography: Alternative forms of qualitative writing. Mayland: AltaMira Press (pp. 109-131).
Rose, J. (2022) Ethnographic research for social justice: A critical engagement with homelessness in a public park. In C. W. Johnson and D. C. Parry (Eds.) Fostering Social Justice through Qualitative Inquiry: A methodological guide (2nd ed.) NY: Routledge (pp. 122-143).
Sabat, S. R. (2003) Malignant positioning and the predicament of people with Alzheimer’s disease. In R. Harré, F. M. Moghaddam and F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The Self and Others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger (pp. 85-98).
Scott, J. B. (2022) Writing ourselves back into the story: Using autoethnography to advance social justice. In C. W. Johnson and D. C. Parry (Eds.) Fostering Social Justice Through Qualitative Inquiry: A methodological guide. N.Y.: Routledge (pp. 144-159).
Sparkes, A. C. (2021) When judgment calls: Making sense of criteria for evaluating different forms of autoethnography. In T. E. Adams, S. Holman Jones and Carolyn Ellis (Eds) Handbook of Autoethnography. Routledge (pp. 263-276).
Spinazola, L. P., Ellis, C. and Bochner, A. (2021) Evocative autoethnography – Evoking is as evoking does. In I. Fourie (Ed.) Autoethnography for Librarians and Information Scientists. London: Routledge (pp. 33-48).
Spry T. (2011) Performative autoethnography: Critical embodiments and possibilities. In: N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage (pp. 497–511).
Spry, T. (2021) The Matter of Performative Autoethnography. In T. E. Adams, S. Holman Jones and Carolyn Ellis (Eds) Handbook of Autoethnography (2nd ed,) New York: Routledge (pp. 167-178).
Staller, K. M. (2006) Railroads, runaways, & researchers: Returning evidence rhetoric to its practice base. Qualitative Inquiry, 12, 3, 503-522.
Teater, B. (2017) Social work research and its relevance to practice: The gap between research and practice continues to be wide. Journal of Social Service Research, 43, 5, 547-565.
Witkin, S. L. (1991) Empirical clinical practice: A critical analysis. Social Work, 36, 2, 158-163.
Witkin, S. L. (1998) Is social work an adjective? Social Work, 43, 6, 483-486.
Witkin, S. L. (2000). Writing social work. Social Work, 45, 5, 389-394.
Witkin, S.L. (2011) Why do we think practice research is a good idea? Comments and musings inspired by the Salisbury statement. Social Work & Society, 9, 1, (urn:nbn:de:0009-11-29248)
Witkin, S.L. (ed) (2014) Narrating Social Work Through Autoethnography. NY: Columbia University Press.
Witkin, S.L. (2017) Transforming Social Work: Social Constructionist Reflections on Contemporary and Enduring Issues. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Witkin, S. L. and Harrison, W. D. (2001) Whose evidence and for what purpose? Social Work, 46, 4, 293-296