Autoethnography is a research method that allows us to examine and question the socio-cultural, political, and historical dynamics that shape our personal experiences. According to Manning and Adams (2015), autoethnography “foregrounds the researcher’s personal experience (auto) as it is embedded within, and informed by, cultural identities and con/texts (ethno) and as it is expressed through writing, performance, or other creative means (graphy). More specifically, it is a method that blends the purposes, techniques, and theories of social research—primarily ethnography—with the purposes, techniques, and theories associated with genres of life writing, especially autobiography, memoir, and personal essay” (188-189).

In this exam, you will write a short autoethnographic essay about your relationship or experiences with popular culture.

The goals of this essay are:
To connect your personal experience to broader socio-political and cultural forces;
To make you feel empowered and to have agency on your own experience with popular culture and with the intersectional issues embedded in it.
You will base your autoethnographic essay both on your personal history and on the materials we covered in class. It will be up to you to decide which texts and theories to consider. This assignment is both creative-humanistic and critical-analytical: you will consider your topic in depth by drawing on your own experiences, beliefs, norms, values, as well as the course materials. You will also identify social and political structures that underlie your experience with the item or experience you selected.

You don’t need to have a thesis statement, but you do need to have a clear topic, and your main goals and analysis should be clear.

Your essay should:

Be reflexive and analytical: you should clearly show why the experience you chose is meaningful for you and why it’s culturally/socially significant. You should also reflect on the implications of your experience from a broader socio-cultural perspective.

Be clearly organized in terms of structure, content, and style: you should give enough context, descriptions, and examples, so that the reader has enough details to understand your topic and analysis. While your essay can be creatively written, it should be coherent and comprehensible (e.g., no stream-of-consciousness).

Demonstrate understanding of the course materials: your analysis should be informed by the materials and readings we covered in our course. You should draw from and correctly cite the relevant course materials, and demonstrate your understanding of the key concepts, theories, and arguments covered. You should reference at least three authors from the ones we’ve studied this semester.
Your essay can include multimedia references: video, audio, images, photos, drawings… (make sure to quote the authors and add the source in parenthesis).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Your experience with one specific piece of popular culture (as a consumer, or as a producer, or as a fan, etc…)
Your relationship with social media, and how it’s impacted your sense of self, or your relationships with humans, with machines, with the planet…
You experience with the internet or with the phone (from when you started to use it up until now)
Your parasocial relationship with a celebrity
How specific advertisements interpellate you
Examples of autoethnographic essays from this semester:
Jia Tolentino, “The Internet and I” (
Shani Jamila, “Can I Get a Witness? Testimony from a Hip Hop Feminist” (uploaded)