chapter  1
26 Pages

An autoethnographic introduction

ByViv Martin

Autoethnography is an autobiographical genre of writing which situates the personal within its social context by combining inquiry into a cultural phenomenon along with personal experience of that phenomenon and ethnographic reflection on it. C. Ellis describes autoethnography as 'research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social and political'. The 'inner journey' was leading outwards; the individual story was part of a more collective narrative. Arthur Frank identifies three types of illness narrative: restitution stories that are 'about the triumph of medicine'; chaos stories in which 'the suffering is too great for a self to be told'; and quest stories in which 'the meaning of the journey emerges recursively: the journey is taken in order to find out what sort of journey one has been taking'. The paradox of illness stories is that they can encompass loss, chaos and meaninglessness alongside order, creative transformation and meaning-making.