7. Using Autoethnography to Explore the Experience of Spirituality in Epilepsy
Spirituality and Wellbeing - Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Religious Experience and Health - Bettina E. Schmidt
Louise N. Spiers [+]
University of Northampton
This chapter introduces the use of autoethnography as a means of exploring spiritual experiences. Autoethnography is a qualitative research approach where the researcher identifies with, or is a member of, the group being studied - a so-called ‘anthropological-insider’ (Hayano 1979). Its meaning comes from the conjunction of auto (I), with ethno (culture) and analysis (graphy) (Ellis 2004). In autoethnography, the autobiographical voice is given primacy, reflexively acting as a critical mirror of the culture within which the individual lives. Focus is placed on evoking the nature of the experience and its impact on the life of the experient. Autoethnographers present first-person data using narrative, poetry, dance and the visual arts which is ‘layered’ alongside a discussion of relevant literature. This embodied and non-linear approach is unique. Although there is analysis of the material presented, in autoethnography there is an emphasis on showing, rather than telling. The autoethnographic approach suggests that in gaining a deeper, more empathic response to the subject-matter, the reader will have a deeper and richer understanding of the subject matter. Autoethnographic methodology is employed here as a narrative that provides an insight into the phenomenology of spiritual experience in epilepsy, through the lens of the researcher’s personal experience.