Was it autoethnography? The classificatory, confessional and mad politics of lived experience in sociological research

  • Brigit McWadeEmail author
Original Article


This paper will consider the history and politics of autoethnography in relation to the activist scholarship of Mad Studies. As part of ethnographic research about ‘recovery in/from serious mental health problems’ in the UK, I accessed an NHS community “arts for mental health” service as a service-user would do, situating this data in broader socio-political debates concerning the meaning, management and lived experience of madness and distress. This paper examines the framing of this research as autoethnographic and the relationship of personal and/or lived experience to the knowledge produced. I explore the classificatory, confessional and Mad politics of experience, identity and identification, and embodiment for research subjectivities. Employing autoethnographic means, I consider the ways in which I situate myself, and am situated by others, in relation to my research, evaluating the methodological implications of the crisis of representation in anthropology, and the post-structuralist criticism of identity politics. Through an engagement Mad Studies, I seek to move beyond these two established responses to the use of personal experience and autobiography in research.


Autoethnography Experience Mad studies Ethics Qualitative methods Social inequalities 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lancaster Medical SchoolLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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