The Ethnographer Unbared: Revealing Insider Knowledge of Cultural Adaptation


  • Jayne Pitard



critical autoethnography, cultural adaptation, teaching across cultures, Timor Leste, reflexivity


This is my story of how I, a teacher in an Australian university, and twelve students from Timor Leste negotiated cultural difference and gained a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other—and the lesson the story has for researchers. Using autoethnography and structured vignette analysis, I show how each of us evolved coping strategies to deal with our different cultural expectations, and in the process experienced enlightenment and personal transformation. Phenomenology and in particular autoethnography are well suited not only to understanding the interaction between researcher and the researched, but also the role that researcher self-awareness plays in the process of cultural adaptation. To gain perspective on the student experience, I undertook a case study by conducting a focus group and individual interviews. For the students, learning how to exist in Australian culture became the hidden curriculum. For me, understanding the impact of the cultural distance between teacher and students became imperative as the tension between their wellbeing and my own gathered momentum. This demonstrates how the initially separate cultural journeys of researchers and researched can come together as a shared journey of increasing self-understanding and personal growth.


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Author Biography

Jayne Pitard

Jayne PITARD currently supervises PhD students on a pro bono basis in the College of the Arts and Education at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. In her own PhD research, she focused on her work with Indigenous students from Timor Leste. In her 30 years with Victoria University she has delivered professional development to teaching staff, with a focus on transformational learning. She was awarded a travel fellowship to study work-based learning in Europe based on the Worldwide Network of Practice Firms in Essen, Germany. Later, she was an integral partner in the Career Change Program, and is the recipient of a Vice-Chancellors Award for Teaching and Learning. She has published articles on phenomenology and autoethnography, and contributed to the Springer (Singapore) "Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences", edited by Pranee LIAMPUTTONG (2017).




How to Cite

Pitard, J. (2022). The Ethnographer Unbared: Revealing Insider Knowledge of Cultural Adaptation. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 23(1).



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