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Accepted Paper:

An autoethnography of death and grief. Transgressing boundaries of "You" and "I" in co-constructed narratives  

Author:

Kim Silow Kallenberg (Umeå University)

Paper short abstract:

The point of departure for this paper is the loss of two childhood friends that both died as young adults related to substance abuse and mental illness. The presentation is a reading – where the condensed meaning from an ethnographic material is presented in the form of co-constructed narratives.

Paper long abstract:

The point of departure for this paper is the loss of two of my childhood friends – Marcus and Noel – that both died as young adults related to substance abuse and mental illness. Since their deaths, I have interviewed friends and family of both of them to understand my own and others' grief and to seek possible explanations as to why they died. An autoethnographic approach is used to better understand myself in relation to the empirical field.

This paper is based on Carolyn Ellis’ idea of “co-constructed narratives”, or narratives as “jointly-authored” (Ellis et al. 2011:279). Ellis et al writes that co-constructed narratives “illustrate the meaning of relational experiences, particularly how people collaboratively cope with the ambiguities, uncertainties, and contradictions” (Ellis et al. 2011:279) of being friends and family. In my presentation, I will practice the idea of co-constructed narratives – thus exceeding the conventions of how an ethnographic material is usually represented. The presentation will be a reading where I read – after a short contextualizing introduction – cutouts from the empirical material about Marcus and Noel. Inspired by Svetlana Alexievich's way of summing up long interviews in just a few sentences or words, I have put together the essence of the interviews I've conducted to tell a possible story about my dead friends – representing common understandings as well as differing conclusions. The ambition is to test a new form for (auto)ethnographic knowledge by searching for a ”condensed form” (cf. Ingridsdotter & Silow Kallenberg 2018:61) of meaning based in the (auto)ethnographic material.

Panel Know03a
Faraway, so close - when subjectivity breaks the rules. Creating knowledge through autoethnography I