Home and Away: Self-Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography

Christiane Kraft Alsop


Studying the unknown involves leaving the familiar. Leaving is prerequisite to transcending self and society, whether studying a far-away culture or the neighborhood culture. However, leaving also enables a different and deeper understanding of what we left at home. In this exploration I will interweave the two very human states of being at home and being away, both in the literal sense of studying one's "own" and the "other" culture, and in the metaphorical sense of studying the known and the unknown within the field of the ethnographic endeavor. The look back home emerges as a chance to practice self-reflexivity. I will relate scientific approaches to the experience of being home versus being away with my personal experiences of leaving my home-country (Germany) and immersing myself in another culture (the United States) to open up various dimensions of meaning. My contribution includes: (a) the etymology of home and away; (b) cultural psychology of home and away; (c) Fernweh versus Heimweh; and (d) central auto-ethnographic questions and "Journeys Back Home" that illustrate the possibilities auto-ethnography opens up as yet another piece of the puzzle in attempting to understanding ourselves and others.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0203105


ethnography; auto-ethnography; self-reflexivity; cultural psychology; home; homesickness

Copyright (c) 2002 Christiane Kraft Alsop

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