Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

(Im)possible Identity: Autoethnographic (Re)presentations

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

(Im)possible Identity: Autoethnographic (Re)presentations

Article excerpt

Understanding how to represent experience has been an ongoing, salient topic in qualitative research, particularly in autoethnography (Adams & Holman Jones, 2011; Ellis & Bochner, 2006; Harris, 2014). In her handbook chapter, "Autoethnography: Making the Personal Political," Holman Jones (2005) defined an autoethnography as an "ongoing dialogue between self and world about the questions of ontology, epistemology, method, and praxis: What is the nature of knowing, what is the relationship between knower and known, how do we share what we know and with what effect?" (p. 766). We use an autoethnography in order to rethink our normalized understanding of "experience" by reinterpreting experience using a particular socioeconomic, political, and cultural context.

Typically, experience is considered the origin of knowledge and an individual self--a self created by the accumulation of past experiences in multiple times and spaces. In contrast, drawing from poststructuralist theories, Scott (1992) investigates the ways in which experience can be redefined beyond the impulse to chronicle exactly what happened in the past. Scott explicates the "the constructed nature of experience" (p. 25) that constitutes the subject as the way in which one sees and acts in the world. Inquiry into experience is reconceptualized as to historicize identities--identities that are discursively produced rather than simply expressed with the use of collective labels and descriptors of race/ethnicity, gender, class, and more. Influenced by Scott's (1992) theorization of experience, we highlight the "discursive nature of experience" as well as the sociocultural aspects of its construction (p. 37).

Experience is neither simply objective nor self-evident: rather, experience is always constructed through the lens of "experience as interpretation" and "experience as discursive" (Scott, 1992; Smith & Watson, 2001). Autoethnographic narratives in this paper are our experiences situated within Scott's vision of experience--that is always an "interpretation and ... in need of interpretation" (Scott, 1992, p. 37, emphasis in original). We illustrate the ways in which our experience and identities are constructed through the interpretation of language, meaning, and culture.

In addition to our interpretation of experience, we examine the possible (re)presentation of our experience with the use of multiple media, including visual representation, YouTube presentation, bilingual presentation, and text. Cutcher (2013) asserts the importance of utilizing multiple media when text-based publication normalizes knowledge production and reproduction. She calls for continuing efforts to bring performance and exhibition in visual, time-based representation that serves the current digital environment. We recognize the need for multiple representations in qualitative research in the crisis of representation--the crisis that written/spoken and visual image texts always fail to represent the subjectivity. In their fourth edition of the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Denzin and Lincoln (2011) categorize the eight key moments in qualitative research and articulate a crisis of representation as the fourth moment which has emerged since the 1980s. The influx of postmodernism and blurred disciplinary genres in qualitative research influenced the concerns related to research representation.

We are engaged in this ongoing issue of representation because the uncertainty regarding "proper" methods of depicting social reality is still questioned in major epistemological and methodological debates in qualitative research. Representation of the social world falls into nothing but a simulacrum, which is only a copy of an imaginary entity, yet becomes hyperreal without original or reality (Baudrillard, 1994; Lather, 2007). Grounded in the complexities inherent in the representation of knowledge and experience as data, we challenge what has been taken for granted as facts or certainties by examining "theoretical discourses about the interpretation of reality" (Marcus & Fisher, 1986, p. …

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