Revisioning an Ethnographic Life: Integrating a Communicative Heart with a Sociological Eye

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This story tells a version of my life as an ethnographer and symbolic interactionist. From an early age, I was intrigued by how people interacted and created meaningful worlds for themselves and by my own motives, actions, thoughts, and feelings. Later, as a student of sociology, my eyes were opened to the macro forces that constrained, liberated, and influenced actions, identities, and performances. Eventually, I located myself on the margins of sociology, as I experienced the constraints of mainstream sociology and how this perspective limited what and how I could study and write. I was drawn to a wider interdisciplinary community of scholars who examined experience more concretely and emotionally, and I began to work comfortably in the spaces between social science and literature, self and other, research and story. I now view myself more as a writer communicating heartfelt stories for the purpose of opening up and evoking conversations and emotional responses from readers than a reporter giving an account of what she has seen, heard, and analyzed from a distance, a researcher who works with others rather than one who collects data on them. In my current collaborative witnessing project with Holocaust survivors, I have come full circle, connecting macrohistory and structure with personal storytelling and integrating my sociological eye with a communicative heart.

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Revisioning an Ethnographic Life: Integrating a Communicative Heart with a Sociological Eye, in N. K. Denzin (Ed.), Blue-Ribbon Papers: Behind the Professional Mask: The Autobiographies of Leading Symbolic Interactionists, Emerald Group, p. 123-151