Alternative Methods in Social Work: Autoethnography as a Social Justice Approach

Heather M. Sloane & Arvindhan Natarajan | September 22 | 1:30-2:30 PM | Room 2592

Traditional ethnography, along with other social science methods, have been critiqued by feminist scholars as being falsely objective. In traditional research, the researcher makes observations that are inevitably interpreted through the researcher’s worldview, which is often white, male, and privileged and therefore biased. Autoethnography is one way in which researchers have attempted to acknowledge the power dynamic between researcher and subject and the misinterpretation that happens because of economic and cultural differences between the researcher and the subjects. In Autoethnography, the researcher is also a subject and is an artist as well as a social science researcher. This method, that combines cultural observation and artistic self-awareness, requires deep self-reflection and daring self-disclosure that goes against typical social work clinical approaches. The presenters will share autoethnographic projects on grief and empathy with the audience. Dr. Natarajan’s piece will delve into the death of a loved one and subaltern theory, and Dr. Sloane’s piece will remember how her work with car accidents changed her thoughts on the importance of empathy to just social work practice. These research projects are at different stages, one at the very beginning and one about to be published. The audience will be asked to consider the helpfulness of autoethnography to provoke emotion and understanding of difference and how this method can be used as social justice action.

Presentation Objectives:

·       Define autoethnography

·       Share personal autoethnographic research projects

·       Encourage the audience to consider the helpfulness of autoethnography

About the Presenters