Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research where the researcher explores his or her own experience as a focus within the investigation and examination of cultures. It acknowledges the power of the researcher to explore more closely than others are able, and it connects the personal story to the participatory cultures.
“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.” (Ellis, Adams and Bochner 2011: np).
Before even being introduced to the notion of Autoethnography I had spent a considerable amount of time overseas and also having looked into the study of communication across cultures – where I mainly focused on addressing the issues involved in communication among people of different linguistic and “cultural” backgrounds.
In saying this one Scholar comes to mind…
Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analysed a large database of employee value scores collected within IBM between 1967 and 1973 – where his research was quantitively based on questionnaires. He collected and published six ‘CULTURAL DIMENSIONS’ to which have been recognized globally; filling in the spaces that have grown between cross-cultural relationships.
Culture has been defined in many ways; Geert Hofstede defines culture as “A collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another” (Hofstede 1980). However, I believe that an array of issues present themselves through his approach and although identified as revolutionary, his research cannot elude its way from cataloguing nations, its people and values. I believe in the following:
- Hofstede’s dimensions raise issues such as the problem of equating nation states with cultures, quantification using indices and matrices, and conducting such research through the status of the observer.
- Culture is defined through its combination of internal and external linkages where a paradigm such as that of Hofstede’s of comparing overt diversities.
- The limitation of Hofsted’s dimensions do not suffice and provide adequate material regarding cultural influences and differences.
So why have I just told you all of that?
Having no previous knowledge of the notion Autoethnography, I believe for quite some time I have been more inclined through an Autoethnographic approach without even knowing. Having travelled to Japan and parts South-East Asia including India which was the most interesting. I spent a week in West Bengal at the Makaibari Tea estate whereby I experienced a local homestay during my time there. Living with members of the community, I ate the same way, harvested tea the same way and ultimately lived as a member of society in the same ways. Through this I have developed my understanding from initially external characteristics of culture within a society to that of a more internal scope as my experiences grew. One must delve further into the implicitly learnt, unconscious, unalterable and subjective knowledge regarding numerous and distinctive ways of life. (T.Hall, 1976).
Autoethnography is “a method for exploring, understanding, and writing from, through and with personal experiences in relation to and in the context of the experiences of others”. (Ellis, Adams and Bochner 2011). I believe for a wider examination of culture, especially understanding the systematic differences and great distinctions through intercultural barriers, Autoethnography is very important. Being engulfed by new environments, information and ideologies can very well be channelled into revelations regarding the ‘facts’ and ‘truth’.
- Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
- Geert-hofstedecom. (2016). Geert-hofstedecom. < https://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html>
- Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work Related Values. (1 ed.). Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE Publications.