Implicated Audience Member Seeks Understanding: Reexamining the “Gift” of Autoethnography

Keith Berry

Abstract


Researchers have characterized autoethnography as a highly evocative and personalized mode of discourse that affects authors and their audiences. In this article, the author examines autoethnography by recalling experiences communicating with Tillmann-Healy’s (2005) “The State of Unions: Activism (and In-Activism) in Decision 2004,” an autoethnographic poem about recent U.S. election results, civic inactivity among gay men, and the need for their political engagement. Sparked by a philosophical goal more to understand and respond than to admonish and territorialize, the author uses hermeneutic phenomenology and narrative reflections to consider the complexities of autoethnographic communication, and the hope and challenges that such personalized accounts of “experience” make possible for conversational partners.

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