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What is Autoethnography?

According to, it’s a Noun. Yay research.

AnthropolgogyWikipedia goes on to say that:Autoethnography-wikipedia

“In its early guises Autoethnographies were insider accounts of human culture in practice” (Grant 2014, 114). Ethnographers and Anthropologists, brave and curious individuals, would insert themselves into completely unknown cultures and live with them, or close enough to them, to gain trust and an understanding of the culture.  Then you also have ‘armchair anthropologists, who would study items brought back from these foreign cultures. It’s amazing to think that, not so long ago, there were complete races of people and lands that had not yet been discovered by white man and documented. Now, of course, all is known, and the modern ethnographer may find pleasure in the study of cultures and practices closer to home.

Figure 1: Bronisław Malinowski among Trobriand tribe: Wikipedia

“Autoethnography continues to be a mode of critical writing well suited for those accidental anthropologists who were “natives” or insiders to the cultures they study before they took up the mantle of academic research” (Ellis 2004, cited in Grant 2014 ,114). In this respect, I am a native in comics, due to my years of practice and reading. Much of what I do in the medium happens on a subconscious plane, and it becomes the responsibility of the “accidental anthropologist” to sort these practices and bring them to the surface of the conscious mind with reflection and writing. But how to go about sorting such a morass of experience?

In his PhD exegesis Pat Grant seeks to do this by “presenting a fieldnote-database populated by photographs, drawings and Autoethnographic writing which aggregate to become what Norman Denzin (2000) refers to as a messy text, a collection of material that is multimodal, incomplete, self-reflexive, and resistant to totalising theories, but which is also grounded in epiphanies, that occur in the field of everyday life.” (Grant 2014, 114) A multi-modal approach to self-reflection that suits the multi-faceted medium of comics, using an opposite approach to the established model of first constructing a hypothesis and then seeking proof within the study material. Rather, Grant wisely chooses a “grounded theory developed by Glaser and Strauss (2005, 2009) in the late 1960s, which presents anthropological knowledge as something that must be reverse engineered, that is, pieced together from analysis and interpretations of experience in the field.” (Grant 2014, 115)

Pulling together all my notes, blog entries, drawings, and comics, into a reverse engineered hypothesis. Finding what I have to say after I’ve said it, in a hundred dislocated pieces. Waiting for epiphany and inspiration to strike, hoping that a synthesis of all this information becomes something new, something worth publishing. A contribution to knowledge.

A contribution to knowledge.

Figure 2: 18th century ethnography: Wikipedia

















Ellis, C. (2004) The Ethnographic I: A methodological novel about Autoethnography, Altimira Press, Walnut Creek, California.


Glaser, B.G & Strauss, A.L. (2005) Awareness of Dying, Aldine Transaction, New Brunswick.


Denzin, N.K (2009) Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson.


Figure 1 link


Figure 2 link