Exploring Autoethnography as a Method and Methodology in Legal Education Research

Date01 January 2016
DOI10.1177/2322005815607141
Published date01 January 2016
Subject MatterEssays
Essay
Exploring Autoethnography as
a Method and Methodology
in Legal Education Research
Elaine Campbell1
Abstract
Legal education is a new area for autoethnographic research. Indeed, there is a significant lack of
autoethnography located in higher education generally. This article explicitly seeks to fill a considerable
gap in the literature by fixing the narrative in the law school. Drawing on her own autoethnographic
vignettes and reflexive journal entries, the author provides a first-hand account of entering the world
of autoethnography. She argues that the hyper-reflexivity at the heart of a narrative approach is valuable
and appropriate for legal education research. Yet, she also addresses and explores the challenges of
such an approach, including subjectivity, ethics and the politics of discontent.
Autoethnography: Hyper-reflexivity
Vignette 1: I meet Alice and Ted
I stand on a crowded Metro train, heading home from work. Almost immediately, I nd refuge in part of the
carriage that divides the two seating areas. Here there is only space for a few people to stand and, out of politeness,
most avoid. I am safe in this space. I greedily retrieve my latest autoethnography book from the bottom of my
bag. It is battered and bruised. Pages are coming out at the back; the experienced life of a university library book.
I pause for a moment to consider how many people have icked through this book before me, how many children
have put it in their mouths, and how many bags it has rested in on other journeys to someone’s home. The train
sways from left to right taking my body with it.
I nd the chapter I want to read. It is an abortion narrative. Performed by ‘Alice’ and ‘Ted’, the authors speak to the
audience and to each other. This is Carolyn Ellis & Art Bochner’s story—their lived experience of an unwanted
pregnancy 10 weeks into their relationship. As the fear, joy, confusion, resignation, anger and numbness spills
from the page, I am living the experience with them. The train sways from left to right taking my body with it.
As the story reaches its crescendo and Alice is entering the hospital, I start to feel sick. The train sways from
left to right taking my body with it. I feel lightheaded. The train sways from left to right taking my body with it.
I feel a dull ache in my stomach. The train sways from left to right taking my body with it.
I nd a seat and take deep breaths. I send a WhatsApp message to my partner, telling him it’s the closest I’ve
ever come to passing out.
1 Senior Lecturer, Northumbria Law School, UK.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
3(1) 95–105
© 2016 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/2322005815607141
http://ale.sagepub.com
Corresponding author:
Elaine Campbell, Northumbria Law School, City Campus East, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK.
E-mail: elaine.campbell@northumbria.ac.uk

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