Researching the Self, the Other and their relationship in physiotherapy: a theoretical and methodological exploration of autoethnography
This dissertation sets out to explore the theoretical and methodological feasibility of an autoethnography situated within a theoretical framework that draws on my personal philosophical background. In doing so, the study raises some novel questions about the theoretical underpinnings of autoethnography. The dissertation addresses a number of competing issues: Firstly, because autoethnography is a relatively new qualitative research methodology, it remains somewhat unrefined, and alongside its potential benefits lie numerous conceptual problems and limitations. These issues differ depending on the paradigmatic position of each individual researcher and the theoretical framework s/he uses to shape his/her research. Full awareness of one’s subjective philosophical position thus allows at least its acknowledgement, if not even a justification for its place and role in shaping the methodology. Secondly, the potential of my subjective philosophical position, comprised by the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and the philosophies and practices of Aikido and Zen, as an underpinning philosophy and theoretical framework for autoethnography is practically un- or underexplored in the existing literature around autoethnography. However, due to an overlap of core topics, it seems as though their combination might be beneficial to improve the strength and theoretical foundation of (my) autoethnography. Consequently, testing whether autoethnography is compatible with my philosophical background is a necessary precursor to any more detailed empirical work. This dissertation acts as a preparatory study for a future autoethnography of my personal physiotherapy practice, in which the approach emerging from the present dissertation would be applied. In this sense, the present study bears some resemblance to the reliability and validity studies common to quantitative research, but instead takes as its focus the possible methodological and philosophical compatibility of autoethnography with the philosophies and practices of Aikido, Zazen and Levinas. To examine this question I have identified a number of key factors that are relevant to develop a theoretical framework for my autoethnography and these form the main structural features of the dissertation. Chapters include the basic philosophical, ontological and epistemological underpinnings, data and the methods of its processing, trustworthiness and ethical considerations for autoethnographic research. In each chapter I have compared and contrasted existing autoethnographic approaches with thinking inherent in my personal philosophical background. Through this process of contrasting and comparing a theoretical framework has emerged that partially builds on and infers from existing approaches, but also adds and changes some aspects in an entirely novel way. In the dissertation I have shown that it may indeed be theoretically and methodologically possible to combine autoethnography with my personal philosophical background, and that approach may offer a strong enough foundation for its application in a future autoethnography of my physiotherapy practice. However, the present study was a strongly theoretical exploration and some problems and question remain that will have to be revisited and redeveloped throughout its actual, practical application.