Dear Mrs Sharma,
I am not used to write to autors of papers, but I just finished the reading of your article and I feeled I had to tell you how much I enjoyed it.
I am a Ph.D. student in psychology in Montréal. I am very glad to see that research is not only a cold and competitve domain but that it can also be something human and humble. I was very touched by your writing and I found it very inspiring. I personally work on stigmatization of mental illness and I see your paper as a very interesting way to go beyond the stigma that is attached to bipolar disorder (as modern psychiatry name it!) in a creative process.
I hope you all the best,
Candidate au doctorat en psychologie (Psy.D./Ph.D.)
Université du Québec à Montréal
Today morning, I got this when I checked my mail. This made me want to write on something that I have always wanted to talk about in the context of research- who should be the ‘subject’ of one’s study. And this is where I feel that autoethnography is such a superior or perhaps the highest in terms of complexity that any researcher can choose, for they are then willing to put themselves through the complex process of analyzing their own actions and minds.
Of course it is another matter that one can easily choose such a domain where you do not reveal much about your own life to people. For instance, most of the autoethnographies that i have come across are about someone’s experience of adjusting in a new culture, about sports injury, about race and ethnicity, about pressures/choices at work. But putting yourself under the scanner or opening up hidden dimensions of yourself for public scrutiny is another story altogether and I found that nobody ever had the sort of courage, Carolyn Ellis exhibits in Revision. Taking her as a benchmark for setting my standards, I have done a good amount of autoethnographic writing (some still pending review). But of course despite the encouragement offered by Prof Misra I have no courage to write my whole story of recovery down as autoethnography, for it has the potential to stir many difficult aspects of life, including memories of psychosis. Had it had any more value than publication in a research journal, i may have thought about it. But to write something so that 200 people can read it, does not appeal any more.
Anyways, coming back to the subject of what could be a desirable attitude toward research, I am pondering about the comment of this email to me…’I am very glad to see that research is not only a cold and competitve domain but that it can also be something human and humble.’ reaffirms the words of Alridge about when we choose certain questions to research, that itself is a bias- the choice of question itself is a bias! So if someone is choosing themselves as a subject- is that a bias? Or is the object of the study- the process of recovery and whether it merits being a research question, become the bias.
I can imagine that studying about someone else is not such a difficult thing, for then one is only studying, analyzing someone outside of oneself- the classic way all normative inquiry works. By definition itself when you pitch someone against a social ideal or idea of what one is measured against, coldness comes into being in the research process. How contrasted this is in comparison with Ellis’ writing somewhere, that she calls ‘Heartfelt autoethnograpy’ the voice.
Not only is there a world of difference in qualitative and quantitative research, I think the people who do them are also different, though I guess it would be easier for the ones doing qualitative to do quantitative as well, but not the vice versa. I may be wrong, but my suspicion is that those who look at humans as numbers or categories are certainly a step removed away, even from the beginning while those who look at humans in their eyes, replete with their subjectivities and their milieu are already more tuned to a more humane reality. And that I think, determines whether people end up doing research which is socially meaningful or simply something to advance their career goals by garnering degrees and publications.