Unless you use Ethnography Methods for Autobiography, you will always be in the dark about your own cultural background. I searched for mine for many years. It wasn’t until I found my family, at age 30, and connected with them that I began to understand myself and my real identity through cultural exchanges. The project that helped me most was writing an ethnography of my great aunt, Virginia.
Autobiography and Self-understanding
As people look for a road to lead them to self understanding and/or a life-changing fix in a complex world, they will find endless rhetoric under the guise of self-help schemes: get rich quick; get thin quick; get quick body enhancements; forgive all the people you know, etc.
The variety and styles of venues are endless, but few really address the self at all. A person’s real self is the one formed through years of exposure to human culture. The real self is found inside the envelope of the culture that brought them into adulthood. An individual’s self, is discovered when that envelope is opened and their own cultural contents are revealed. The courses offered under this topic will help students discover what is in their own envelope of personal cultural contents. Genealogy research is part of this discovery, but not all.
If you have ever considered writing your own autobiography, or someone else’s personal history, or your own family history, it is overwhelming just to begin where you think is the beginning. Using ethnography methods will help you find answers because you will be more in tune to what the questions should be that need to be answered.
Where is that letter that Aunt Chris wrote me that changed my life? Where did I put that picture of my granny and me on my first birthday? Did anyone take pictures of me at my first piano recital? Now that my Mom is gone, what did she do with my baby book? I remember seeing it somewhere. Even though my father died when I was seven months old and I never knew him, how does he fit into my life story? These are questions that I had when I began to write my own autobiography, you may have many more questions – and very different ones that you need to answer. Your research should always begin with a question. This is what ethnography methods entail. In a nutshell, ethnography research follows these steps: 1) it is field-based, 2) it is personalized, 3) it is multi-factual, 4) it requires interaction with the subject, 5) it is descriptive in every way 6) it relies on interpretations and conclusions, and most of all 7) it is holistic.
Often people think, “my life isn’t really that spectacular, who would even be interested in reading about it?” The answer is everyone who loves you, and others who may not even know you. After all, everyone loves a good story! And, everyone has a story! You might ask yourself: my everyday life, what happened to it? How can I put it into a perspective that is both truthful, meaningful, and interesting? This course will help to inspire students with the confidence that they can do it, one step at a time. With today’s technology, and the ability to share in so many ways, an autobiography might really become spectacular. Who knows, it might even go viral! (If you want it to.)
To get a better understanding of your own life, it will help to develop methods of gathering different kinds of information. In this case, a glimpse into scientific methods that anthropologists use when they are researching ethnic groups and various cultures to present accurate knowledge about. In this lesson, students will be introduced to ethnography and ethnographic methods used “in the field.” With autobiography, “the field” will be your own life!