Autoethnography and Advocacy

Lisa Tillmann, Ph.D.

Rollins College


Friday, March 11 at 7:00 pm | University Center | CJ Davidson UC 100


This talk invites listeners to explore how their own autoethnographic scholarship and pedagogy might more directly and fully engage structural inequalities such as classism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. I will chart the evolution of my own (auto)ethnographic work from my first published autoethnography, “A Secret Life in a Culture of Thinness: Reflections on Body, Food, and Bulimia,” to my LGBTQ+ (auto)ethnographies Between Gay and Straight: Understanding Friendship Across Sexual Orientation and In Solidarity: Friendship, Family, and Activism Beyond Gay and Straight, to the role of autoethnography in my documentary film projects (Remembering a Cool September, Off the Menu: Challenging the Politics and Economics of Body and Food, and Weight Problem: Cultural Narratives of Fat and “Obesity”), to my most recent scholarship on academic labor, antiracist pedagogy, and racism and the War on Terror.


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Doing Compassionate Research with Others from an Autoethnographic Perspective

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

University of South Florida


Saturday, March 12 at 7:00 pm | University Center | CJ Davidson UC 100


In this presentation, I concentrate on bringing an autoethnographic perspective to research that focuses on the lives and struggles of others.  Through interview film clips and transcripts, I examine the research relationship that has developed between Jerry Rawicki, a Holocaust survivor, and me, a researcher, as we seek together to understand his experiences both during and after the Holocaust. In this collaboration, I develop and extend a relational ethic of care to guide us in how to do close intimate research ethically, in a way that honors our relational responsibilities. I ask, what are the ethical actions to take? How should we be together?


My talk also focuses on issues of authorship and how one works the “I” of autoethnography in collaborative research. Conversations with suffering people involve participation from both researcher and respondent—asking and offering, going forth and backing up, showing strength and vulnerability, listening to pain and feeling/staying with the pain. Since the researcher is part of this conversation, relational ethics requires the researcher to do a continuous self-examination, which involves interrogating and trying to understand self and other while honoring the space and dialogue in between. Researchers must be willing to be vulnerable and share stories from their own lives while participants share theirs, because that is how relationships develop and that is what mutual respect means. We must be self-aware but not self-absorbed, all the while keeping focus on the others’ stories.  In the process both researcher and participant should have the possibility of coming to new questions and understandings about ourselves and each other, our relationships and experiences, as well as opening up conversations about the content of our research and its moral and social value.