Tony Adams and Andrew Herrmann are Co-Editors of University of California Press’s new journal Journal of Autoethnography (ISSN: 2637-5192), which publishes its first articles this month.
UC Press: First, congratulations on the launch of Journal of Autoethnography!
Editors: Thanks! The journal has been in the works for nearly a decade. Autoethnography can be found in nearly every academic discipline. A Google search for “autoethnography” yields more than a million results, and a Google Scholar search for “autoethnography” yields more than forty thousand sources, many of which have hundreds—even thousands—of citations. Several international conferences foreground autoethnographic research, and numerous journals welcome autoethnographic submissions. Needless to say, a journal dedicated to autoethnography was long overdue. We kept waiting for someone to launch one, but then we thought, “Well, why not us?” We are thrilled with the launch. And a special shout out to David Famiano from UC Press for giving us the opportunity to do so.
UC Press: For non-academic people, can you explain “autoethnography”?
Editors: When we begin to explain autoethnography, we often begin with an explanation of terms such as “autobiography,” “memoir,” or “personal essay.” Even though these terms aren’t synonymous with “autoethnography,” the goals and techniques of these terms comprise the “auto” of “autoethnography.” People who participate in these types of life writing use memory and hindsight to reflect on past experiences, talk with others about the past, and examine texts such as photographs, personal journals, and recordings. They then assemble a text that uses storytelling devices, such as narrative voice, character development, and dramatic tension to create engaging accounts of their experiences and observations.
We next add an explanation of “ethnography” to our discussion—the “ethno” component of “autoethnography.” Ethnography is a method of doing research in which a researcher—the ethnographer—studies a social group with the aim to better understand it. The ethnographer interacts with this group for an extended period of time and then creates an account of the group based on this interaction, interviews with group members, and an analysis of group documents and artifacts. So we might say “autoethnography” involves telling about a person’s life, but in the telling, the autoethnographer makes observations about other people’s stories, social interactions, and cultural events.
The last component of autoethnography, “graphy,” is fairly simple—it’s the way the writer and researcher documents and represents their life and the lives of others.
UC Press: Your first issue is about to release, and includes a forum on the importance of autoethnography, as well as articles from Mitch Allen, Kathryn Mara, David Kottenstette and Tasha Dunn & Ben Myers. What are some of the highlights of the issue?
Editors: One of the fun things about autoethnography is how it can be utilized across many topics. We purposefully tried to include articles that show the breadth of autoethnography as a research process. We don’t want to summarize the entire issue, but let us give two almost diametrically opposed examples. Tasha Dunn and Benjamin Myers’ article uses autoethnography to explore relational communication and the dilemmas of self-disclosure in our increased, social-mediated world. This is an important area of study. However it is also a funny and relatable read, as nearly all of us have been in these types of dilemmas, trying to determine which information to keep on/off of our social media. Conversely, autoethnography can include unheralded depths of emotion. David Kottenstette’s piece does this as he explores the 20 years of grief since the sudden death of his partner. The autoethnography is singular in its focus about the hard conversations and the even harder necessity of living after loss. Two very different autoethnographies.
In forum for the first issue—actually in the entire first volume—we chose specific individuals who have had a long history with autoethnography to write shorter pieces. We wanted prominent qualitative scholars in the field to provide us with exemplars, ideas, and concepts about what autoethnography is, where it is going, and the dilemmas autoethnographers may encounter. We hope the forum essays will launch new and nuanced conversations about autoethnography.
UC Press: What are your plans for upcoming issues? Are there any specific topics you are looking to explore?
Editors: Each issue will typically include three sections: Original Articles, Forum, and Book/media reviews:
- Original Articles: Scholars conducting original research will most often submit these manuscripts. These manuscripts could be autoethnographic manuscripts about particular topics, or manuscripts that discuss autoethnographic techniques and issues. These articles will go through anonymous peer review.
- Forums: Each forum will focus on a particular theme related to autoethnography. A typical forum (10,000-15,000 words) will consist of an introductory essay written by the forum editor (1,000-1,500 words) and 5-6 short essays written by others (1,500-2,000 words each) about the theme. Forums could focus on the use of autoethnography in particular disciplines (e.g., music, cultural studies, psychology, anthropology, sociology), topics that could be explored via autoethnography (e.g., reproductive rights, racism, politics, ethics, immigration, end-of-life issues), or timely issues related to autoethnography (e.g., the ethics of autoethnography; critical, postcolonial, collaborative, or indigenous autoethnography). In the first volume (2020), we have chosen four forum themes: “The Importance of Autoethnography” (Issue 1), “Contemporary Challenges of Autoethnography” (Issue 2), “The Future of Autoethnography” (Issue 3), and “Writing Autoethnography” (Issue 4). For later volumes, we will accept proposal forums devoted to contemporary topics that could be explored via autoethnography.
- Book/Media Reviews: Given the international and interdisciplinary nature of autoethnography, book/media reviews will be a key part of the journal. If you are interested in writing a book/media review, or if you are an author or editor and have a text you would like to have reviewed, contact either of the journal’s book review editors, Esther Fitzpatrick (email@example.com) or Jeni Hunniecutt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We have an open a rolling submission process, so authors can submit manuscripts at anytime. Starting with the second volume (2021) we plan on publishing one special issue per year. If you think you have a solid idea for a special issue, don’t hesitate to let us know. The same goes for forums.
UC Press: What advice would you give to someone who is considering submitting to JoAE?
Editors: We would first encourage readers to access our Introduction to the first issue, “Expanding Our Autoethnographic Future.” In the Introduction, we offer a brief overview of autoethnography and describe what manuscripts are (not) appropropriate for this journal.
For example, we expect every manuscript to engage at least some aspects of the “auto,” “ethno,” and “graphy,” and these components will inform how we assess manuscripts. We also do not want manuscripts to defend or apologize for using autoethnography. The essence of this journal is to recognize the vast presence and promote the usefulness of autoethnography. We are interested in learning what autoethnography can do, as a method, that other methods cannot accomplish. Constructive criticism about autoethnography is welcomed, as long as the criticism is intended to enhanced autoethnographic practice. Autoethnography isn’t better than other research methods, only different; it has distinct purposes, goals, and issues than other forms of inquiry.
UC Press: Aside from the journal launch, you just got back from the Doing Autoethnography conference. What can you tell us about the meeting?
Editors: In 2011, Derek Bolen shaped autoethnography’s history by starting the Doing Autoethnography conference at Wayne State University. The conference took place five additional times—2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2020. Derek’s time, energy, and vision has greatly contributed to the visibility and success of autoethnography in the United States and around the world.
In 2021, we will change the name of the conference to the International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative. It will take place on January 1-4, 2021 at the Dolphin Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, FL. The conference will provide autoethnographers (of all experience levels) an opportunity to present their autoethnographic works and encourage dialogue among scholars across a variety of disciplines.
UC Press: Thanks, and best wishes for your launch of the journal!
Journal of Autoethnography (JoAE) is a refereed, international, and interdisciplinary journal devoted to the purposes, practices, and principles of autoethnography. JoAE publishes scholarship that foregrounds autoethnography as a method of inquiry; highlights themes and issues of past and contemporary autoethnographic research; discusses theoretical, ethical, and pedagogical issues in autoethnography; identifies future directions for autoethnography; and highlights innovative applications of autoethnography. JoAE also features reviews of books and media relevant to autoethnographic research and practice.