Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Democratizing Academic Writing: A Revision of an Experience of Writing an Autoethnographic Dissertation in Color

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Democratizing Academic Writing: A Revision of an Experience of Writing an Autoethnographic Dissertation in Color

Article excerpt

However strangely fascinating but challenging preparing for and writing my doctorate dissertation in family therapy at Nova Southeastern University was, it was not until I completed it that I came to deeply appreciate my qualitative research design. I wrote an IRB exempted autoethnography (Admas, 2010; Ellis & Bochner, 2000), researching my experience, as a Colombian mestiza, attempting to decolonize (Akinyela, 2002; Smith, 2006) my preferred family therapy framework, narrative therapy (White & Epston, 1990), and to indigenize it into my Latin American culture (polanco, 2011). What let me to this study was my sudden realization that while training as a narrative therapist in the U.S. English, my second language, had acquired a monopoly over my practice, displacing my Spanish. My dissertation yielded, among other things, a translation of excerpts of a seminal text, Maps of Narrative Practice (White, 2007), from English to Spanish that revealed and, then, interrogated cultural hierarchy between these two languages within the context of the longstanding history of North American colonization in Colombia.

In this paper I discuss how I navigated the complexities of figuring out how to write autoethnographically while doing autoethnography. I present the way in which, in hindsight, I discovered a craft for my autoethnographic accounts, informed by the very decolonizing politics and narrative therapy practices I was studying. Supported by what I came to consider as a shared politics of resistance among narrative therapists and autoethnographers, I here present what resulted as my dissertation writing in color. This is by soaking my writing in my Colombian storytelling traditions for it to reveal our multitude of cultural, racial, and ideological roots influenced by Indigenous, African, and European traditions (Anzaldua, 2008). I proceed by first introducing autoethnography. Following that, I discuss my experience of writing as a mestiza (Anzaldua, 2008) woman in collaboration with an Anglo-American dissertation committee, and, in the process, discovering the importance of democratizing the academia by coloring my writing. I owe a great debt to Doris Sommer (1999), Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Director of Studies in Spanish at Harvard. I continue the discussion with an introduction of a framework for narrative therapy and its practices that supported my artisany in my autoethnographic storytelling. By artisany I am referring to the handicraft of the artisan who uses local methods in her trade. I include excerpts of my dissertation as illustrations of the abovementioned.

Autoethnography

I adopted autoethnography as a methodological vantage point for my doctoral dissertation after it was suggested to me by David Epston. This took place at a conference in La Habana, Cuba on 2007. David joined the end of a conversation with my colleague Marta Campillo at a moment when I was revealing, with embarrassment, the English monolingual state of my narrative therapy that became subject of my dissertation. Together with my dissertation chair, Jim Hibel, and reviewers, Ron Chenail, Douglas Flemons, and Shelley Green, we faced many challenges. I knew nothing about autoethnography plus it was no secret for any of us that writing, either in Spanish or in English, was not precisely my best quality. To be frank, mischief was far more appealing to me that my teachers' grammatical guidance during my early schooling in Bogota, Colombia.

Under Shelley Greene's guidance, I went about learning how to write autoethnography (Ellis, 2004) by first learning how to read autoethnography. Autoethnographic texts invited me to reposition myself as a reader. At first glance, these texts didn't look like any of the scholarly texts I had read during my academic career life both in Colombia and in the U.S. With time, I learned that I could no longer hold autoethnography accountable to criteria normally applied to published research (Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011). …

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