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Interpretive Autoethnography

Interpretive Autoethnography

Second Edition

November 2013 | 160 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Like all writing, biographies are interpretive. In Interpretive Autoethnography, Norman Denzin combines one of the oldest techniques in the social sciences with one of the newest. Bringing in elements of postmodernism and interpretive social science, he reexamines the biographical and autobiographical genres as methods for qualitative researchers. Grounded in theory and rigorous analysis, this accessible book points up the inherent weaknesses in traditional biographical forms and outlines a new way in which biographies should be conceptualized and shaped. The book provides a guide to the assumptions of the biographical method, to its key terms, and to the strategies for gathering and interpreting such materials. Denzin introduces the key concept of “epiphany,” or turning points in person’s lives. A final chapter returns to autoethnography’s primary purpose: to make sense of our fragmented lives.

1. Assumptions of the Method
2. A Clarification of Terms
3. Interpretive Guidelines
4. Selves, Stories, Experiences
5. Evaluating Performance Autoethnography
6. In Conclusion: Performing Lives

Norman K. Denzin’s newest text, Interpretive Autoethnography, intricately blends the best of Interpretive Biography (1989) and Interpretive Interactionism (2001). It is a must read for advanced, seriously committed narrative, autoethnographic researchers and writers. Denzin succeeds at making autoethnographic terminology accessible. Crisp accounts illustrate the abundance of terms and characteristics. Writers now have a means to write with new and varied eyes elevating participants’ voices. Stories blend histories, cultures, drama and myriad other features that Denzin illuminates to add sincerity to text.

Lois McFadyen Christensen
University of Alabama at Birmingham

This is a groundbreaking and visionary text for anyone interested in autoethnography, personal experience, and life story research.

Tony E. Adams
Northeastern Illinois University

Denzin's Interpretive Autoethnography provides a deeply comprehensive and deftly concise analysis of autoethnographic methods, theories, and trends. He places autoethnography where it belongs, grounded in theory and rigorous analysis. From Sartre to Conquergood, Anzuldua to Derrida, Denzin tracks the philosophical and methodological journey of autoethnography as an interpretive, performative, poststructural, and politically transgressive methodology. This is the foundational survey text for autoethnographic inquiry belonging under the arm of students and accomplished scholars alike walking into a qualitative methods classroom.

Tami Spry
St. Cloud State University

Good text for reference but others are more contemporary.

Mr Lisa Weems
Educational Admin Dept, Miami University-Oxford
July 2, 2015

More Useful for msc and PhD students than Bsc students

Ms Georgie Cox
School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University
April 16, 2015

Really useful as introductory text for beginning doctoral students - both to autoethnography and to a distinct way of thinking about social science research

Dr Pamela Woolner
Education, Newcastle University
March 12, 2015

Excellent analysis and description of the subject

Dr Alhajie Saidy Khan
Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University
March 5, 2015

Brilliant book- it is not only well written but also captures the importance of auto-ethnography.

Dr Jadwiga Leigh
Department of Sociological Studies, Sheffield University
February 28, 2015

Love this book looking for Fall 2015

Dr Heather Carver
Theatre Dept, University Of Missouri
February 25, 2015

A very useful, little text that is easy to read and ideal for students and novice researchers embarking on this method of qualitative enquiry.

Dr Jayne Marshall
Faculty of Health & Social Care Scienc, St George's, University of London
November 10, 2014
Key features


  • Draws on the last two decades’ astounding proliferation of interpretive (auto)biographical methods, including the work of Maclure, St. Pierre, Lather, and others
  • Includes an all-new chapter on Performance Ethnography
  • Expands coverage of recent work that has grown out of the “biographical impulse”
  • Includes criticisms of biographical/autobiographical approaches
  • Adds coverage of ethics, as well as voice, reflexivity, arts-based inquiry, and representation of historical voices/texts


  • Skillfully lays out the key assumptions, terms, guidelines, and parameters of autoethnography
  • Provides a brief yet comprehensive guide to using and studying personal experience and the dilemmas and political implications of textualizing a life
  • Combines critical analysis and methodological applications
  • Offers examples with analyses that clearly illustrate the book’s theories, concepts, and guidelines

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