Using Autoethnography to Explore the Experience of Spirituality in Epilepsy

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This chapter introduces the use of autoethnography as a means of exploring spiritual experiences. Autoethnography is a qualitative research approach where the researcher identifies with, or is a member of, the group being studied - a so-called ‘anthropological-insider’ (Hayano 1979). Its meaning comes from the conjunction of auto (I), with ethno (culture) and analysis (graphy) (Ellis 2004). In autoethnography, the autobiographical voice is given primacy, reflexively acting as a critical mirror of the culture within which the individual lives. Focus is placed on evoking the nature of the experience and its impact on the life of the experient. Autoethnographers present first-person data using narrative, poetry, dance and the visual arts which is ‘layered’ alongside relevant literature. This embodied and non-linear approach is unique. Although there is analysis of the material presented, in autoethnography there is an emphasis on showing, rather than telling. The autoethnographic approach suggests that in gaining a deeper, more empathic response to the subject-matter, the reader will have a deeper and richer understanding of the subject matter.
In this chapter, autoethnographic methodology is employed using an approach where primacy is given to the emotional veracity of the events. The resulting narrative provides an insight into the phenomenology of spiritual experience in epilepsy, through the lens of the researcher’s personal experience. Spirituality in epilepsy is often attributed to delusions or hallucinations symptomatic of the condition, sometimes as a form of psychosis. understand the role of well-being arising from what may be otherwise considered an illness. The narrative presented here suggests that spirituality in epilepsy may contribute in a fundamental way to understanding the human condition and, specifically, the process by which we derive meaning and purpose from our experience of life. Autoethnography enables the researcher to question and problematize a materialist understanding of these spiritual experiences. The adaptability of the autoethnographic method demonstrates that it is valuable for those interested in exceptional human experiences, because it provides data that would not be accessible using other data collection and analysis methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpirituality and Wellbeing - Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Religious Experience and Health
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherEquinox eBooks Publishing
ISBN (Print)9781781797655
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2020


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