In communications professor Bryant Keith Alexander’s article on critical autoethnography, he defines it as a practice of telling one’s own story from the multiple perspectives of one’s own self. He notes that “critical work” involves looking for the “hidden forces” that operate in our lives–be they school, family, religion, sex, sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, ability–and exploring how those forces influence who we are and, in addition, how we act back upon them through self-expression (114). These “variables” are categories of being, markers of identity, that allow us to situate ourselves at the center of an intersection where multiple worlds cross each other, hence Crenshaw’s (1995) notion of “intersectionality.” “Intersectionality” is a research method and a way of life that involves a knowledge and understanding of those things that make us different from each other and, through this knowledge, allowing our politics–our social life in the world–to reflect that knowledge and understanding and engage it for the purposes of social transformation (making the world a better place in which to live for all).
Give an example of one time in your recent past in which you experienced yourself as embodying a specific identity. Consider your own “positionality”–where did you stand within this experience? Where do you stand in looking back on it? Do you still identify in the same way? Has anything changed about the way you identify as a result of the experience? In observing yourself as performing a specific identity, what observation could you make about the broader society? In the spirit of “critical autoethnography,” deconstruct your experience as a method of “social criticism” (Alexander 119).
You may write this in any format you wish–essay, stream of consciousness, poem, dialogue, monologue, journal entry, etc.
For instance, note Alexander’s conclusions about his experience of embodying multiple identities that “bleed” out in multiple directions: towards expressions of Blackness, maleness, gayness, brotherliness (. In life, he sees himself as caught metaphorically in a “glass borderless frame” in which he performs a gay, Black, male, brotherly identity. His viewing himself in his mantel picture prompts him to reflect on the ways in which the “heteronormativity” of broader society both constricts who he is at the same time that it pushes him to break out of the metaphorical frame, to find creative ways to express his queer identity.
We will discuss your responses at the end of class. DUE as part of portfolio: November 21, 2017.