I’ve been on a popular culture autoethnography binge. What does that mean? Well to start, autoethnography is a form of autobiographical (sometimes called personal narrative) writing by which authors examine things that matter to them. This is a relatively new way to study popular culture.
If you think about it for a second though, it actually makes sense. We watch the television we do because they bring us joy, or sadness, or horror. We love the characters or the plot twists. We re-watch shows we’ve already seen because they have had an effect on us. We listen to the music we do because it feeds us; it touches us. We are attracted to certain directors or actors because we have some kind of a connection with them. For example, I LOVE me some David Lynch, some Humphrey Bogart, and some Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They “speak” to me.
Jimmie Manning and Tony E. Adams put together a special issue of the Popular Culture Studies Journal on this topic, entitled “Connecting the Personal and the Popular: Autoethnography and Popular Culture.” In this issue, they take us step-by-step into how we can examine pop culture artifacts personally. They talk about the benefits of writing about popular culture from a first person perspective rather than through a third person objective voice.
They discuss how writing from a first-person voice allows us to feel and think with the popular culture items that we watch, read, and listen to. As they note, “To be an autoethnographer and to do autoethnography means recognizing that personal experience cannot be easily or definitively separated from social and relational contexts. In this way, personal experience becomes a valid, viable, and vital kind of data from which to make meaning and use in research.”
There are a number of excellent articles that fill out the rest of this special issue. Popular culture touches us, often deeply. It’s time we admitted that, and wrote not just with our heads, but also with our hearts.