An evocative autoethnography: a mental health professional’s development

  • N. Short

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This work grew out of a need to try to understand my often experienced sense of being misunderstood, misrepresented and marginalised. A prerequisite to helping others in mental health nursing is arguably some requirement to understand one’s self. But who is the self? In this thesis I use an autoethnographic approach to examine how the self, multiple selves and identity formation is socially constructed. Social constructionism contends that categories of knowledge and reality are actively created by social relationships and interactions. As an autobiographical genre of writing, this evocative autoethnography has been written in the first person displaying my multiple layers, connecting my selves to the cultures I inhabit. As a reflexive methodology it offers the researcher a means of critically exploring the social forces and discursive practices that have shaped his own cultures. In addition I discuss the contrast between traditional guidelines and protocol driven ethics with more progressive relational ethics. Central to relational ethics is the question ‘What should I do now?’ rather than the statement ‘This is what you should do now.’ I continue by arguing that we use stories as ‘equipment for living’, as tools to understand, negotiate and make sense of the many different situations we encounter. In recent years, as part of the ‘narrative turn’ in the social sciences, a growing number of scholars have suggested that we live in a world shaped by these stories. I discuss connections between the cultures people occupy and how an individual’s reflexivity can keep them stuck or liberated and emancipated with regard to their personal narratives. Whilst the text is not intentionally instructional, storytelling can be instructive. By showing my vulnerabilities the work is a prism for the reader to reflect on their narratives and the cultures they inhabit.
Date of AwardJul 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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