Research Methods in Family Therapy

By Douglas H. Sprenkle; Fred P. Piercy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Feminist Autoethnography

KATHERINE R. ALLEN
FRED P. PIERCY

you fit into me

like a hook into an eye

a fish hook

an open eye

—ATWOOD (1971, p. 1)

Rarely do I go to the grave of my father. I find him, rather, in the photographs he
took, in the letters he wrote, and in the person I try to be.

—QUINNEY (1996, p. 380)

For life is not lived realistically, in a linear manner. It is lived through the subject's eye,
and that eye, like a camera's, is always reflexive, nonlinear, subjective, filled with
flashbacks, after-images, dream sequences, faces merging into one another, masks
dropping, and new masks being put on. In this world called reality, where we are
forced to react, and life leaks in everywhere, we have nothing to hold on to but our
own being.

—DENZIN (1992, p. 27)

In general, feminist researchers identify and address inequities in human relationships and the systems of domination that maintain them (Reinharz, 1992). Feminist family therapy researchers have employed quantitative methods and measures to do this (e.g., Avis, 1986; Black & Piercy, 1991; Chaney & Piercy, 1988; Haddock, MacPhee, & Zimmerman, 2001). More frequently, however, feminist scholars incorporate personal, reflexive dimensions into their research to shed light on how domination is reproduced in everyday life (Allen, 2000; Gailey, 1998; Laird, 2000). Similarly, researchers are increasingly using “ethnography”—a primary method to investigate other cultures, and in particular their family and kinship relations (Johnson, 2000)— to reflect on the layers of their own experience and culture (Gilgun, 1999; Tedlock, 2003). The epiphanous moments (Denzin, 1989) captured in this manner often have something to say to others. “Autoethnography” is the practice of going back and forth

-155-

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