The authors of this post, Andrew Herrmann and Tony Adams, are Co-Editors of UC Press’s new Journal of Autoethnography.
As co-editors of the recently launched Journal of Autoethnography, we’ve been thinking about how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread quickly around the world and destabilized political, social, and educational systems. Researchers from epidemiology, medicine, and health focus on convincing the public about the seriousness of the virus, slowing the spread, creating a vaccine, and/or finding an effective treatment. Sociologists are examining racial and gender disparities illuminated by the virus, as well as how the virus is transforming cultural values, practices, and systems. Organizational scholars and economists are examining the business and economic dilemmas of shutdowns.
Autoethnography – a method for using personal experience to explore social and cultural issues – offers one way to do such research. Researchers can use autoethnography to demonstrate how abstract, abrupt, and vast changes affect particular lives: specific and contextual experiences of stress and survival, grief and loss, loneliness and connection, desires for structure and normalcy.
For example, I (Andrew) have been interested in how this season of social distancing and self-quarantine impacts the idea and intersections of time, memory, and narrative. Friends, fellow teachers, and I have been using the hashtags #TheBeforeTime, #DayDay, and #TheLater to describe time as it is lived now.
In April, one of my writing partners remarked that we hadn’t done any writing in what felt like “forever,” even though we finished a draft of a 35-page book chapter in March just before COVID-19 shut down our universities. It seems so long ago because it was back then – somewhere in the past – in what we call #TheBeforeTime. The rapid and pressurized way by which COVID-19 changed everything, from the way we work, to the way we (can’t) socialize, to Zooming, means that activities that happened just before the pandemic seem distant, even if they weren’t that long ago.
#DayDay is the term I coined for living in the immediacy of the immediate. There was a point when it seemed no one knew what day it was, and it simply didn’t matter what day it was. “What’s today?” was (is) a constantly repeated question. We are living through a time when former narratives aren’t of much help and don’t make much sense.
#TheLater is what we coined the future when this pandemic is over, if it ever is. Here’s the odd thing about #TheLater. In the immediacy of the #DayDay, #TheLater seems exceptionally distant. It is way out in the future. And then it is not. It is suddenly now, suddenly upon us. #TheLater quickly becomes #DayDay, surprising us and catching us unaware. These ruminations about time demonstrate one way to use autoethnography to investigate COVID-19 experiences.
We have received several submissions about COVID-19 and we will include a forum of essays about the pandemic in the April 2021 issue. Although we continue to welcome manuscripts that use personal experience to explore various facets of the virus, we do offer some caution: COVID-19 isn’t over and to write about your experiences with it assumes that you understand what’s going on. A day in the life of COVID-19 also isn’t novel nor are rote descriptions of living through the virus, especially since we are all affected by it.
If you use autoethnography to research COVID-19, we ask that you demonstrate how your experiences are unique, significant, and able to be detached from the #DayDay of the pandemic. We ask that you make careful and informed arguments about a current, ongoing, and ever-changing phenomenon. And just as we need to treat COVID-19 with a healthy respect, we ask that you treat the analysis of the pandemic with a healthy respect as well, especially since post-COVID-19 life doesn’t exist; #TheLater isn’t here yet, until it is.
To learn more about autoethnography and the Journal of Autoethnography, we invite you to read the introductory editorial from the inaugural issue, Expanding our Autoethnographic Future.
Journal of Autoethnography welcomes submissions of original work. Please review the journal’s author guidelines prior to submission.
Journal of Autoethnography 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.