Summer 2009

SOCS 628
Doing Auto-Ethnography: Writing From the Personal to the Social

Ulysse,Gina Athena

06/29/2009 - 07/30/2009
Monday & Wednesday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Fisk Hall 404

IIn the aftermath of the interpretive turn speared by Clifford Geertz in the 1970s, the blurring of different genres of writing became a feature of cultural anthropology. During the late 1980s, the reflexive turn that followed raised crucial questions about a researcher's position vis-a-vis their intended subjects in the making of ethnographic projects. To capture this dynamism, ethnographers (especially feminists) engaged in more expository writing that further obscured the boundary between social science and literature, which the discipline has historically occupied and struggled with. In this course, we will focus on auto-ethnography-as a method of using the personal specifically to access the social, which emerged out of this theoretical moment. We will consider some of the fundamentals of auto-ethnography, its challenges and possibilities, its fervent critics' as well as its embrace by other disciplines.

We will seriously question what is the personal, how does it relate to the social in attempts to understand the making of auto-ethnography. To achieve our end, we will explore several works by anthropologists and other writers (non-anthropologists) whose social analysis further exposes what is the cultural. In so doing, we will inevitably question the validity of the "culture" concept, who owns it and the various ways it can be deployed to ascertain difference. Our ultimate aim in this course is for students to put theory into practice and produce a significant piece of auto-ethnographic writing- that is an autobiographical piece of writing, which "displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural" (Ellis and Bochner 2000).

Major texts for this course include Ruth Behar, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart; Edwidge Danticat, Brother I'm Dying; Paul Stoller, Stranger in the Village: A Memoir of Cancer, Sorcery and Healing; and Nancy Mairs, Waist High in the World: Life Among the Non-Disabled.

Students will be graded on writing responses for all reading materials assigned, and a final project.

Course tuition: $2022


Gina Ulysse (B.A. Upsala College; M.A., Ph.D. University of Michigan) is assistant professor of anthropology and African American studies. She is author of Downtown Ladies: Informal Commericial Importing and Self-Making in Jamaica (forthcoming), and her many articles include "Cracking the Silence on Reflexivity: Negotiating Identities, Fieldwork and the Dissertation in Ann Arbor and Kingston," in Decolonizing the Academy: Diaspora Theory and African New World Studies, edited by Carol Boyce-Davies (Princeton: Africa World Press, 2003). Click here for more information about Gina Ulysse.


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Ruth Behar, VULNERABLE OBSERVER (Beacon Press), Paperback

Edwidge Danticat, BROTHER, I'M DYING (Vintage), Paperback

Nancy Mairs, WAIST HIGH IN THE WORLD: LIFE AMONG THE NON-DISABLED (Beacon Press), Paperback

Paul Stoller, STRANGER IN THE VILLAGE OF THE SICK (Beacon Press), Paperbck

READING MATERIALS ARE AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323 Order your books online

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