Living bodies of thought: The 'critical' in critical autoethnography

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


There is a vital, yet often unrealized relationship between storytelling and critical approaches to autoethnography. Where autoethnography brings the personal, the concrete, and an emphasis on storytelling to our scholarship, it often leaves us wanting for clear and powerful theoretical frameworks for understanding how such stories help us write into or become the change we seek in the world. Critical theory provides us with such frameworks, though it is often dismissed as jargon-laden, difficult, and impersonal. The critical in critical autoethnography reminds us that theory is not a static or autonomous set of ideas, objects, or practices. Instead, theorizing is an ongoing process that links the concrete and abstract, thinking and acting, aesthetics, and criticism in what performance studies scholar Della Pollock describes as living bodies of thought. This essay engages a practice of performative and queer storytelling that links the concreteness, risk, and poetry of autoethnographic stories with the powerful intellectual and political commitments of critical theory as one example of critical autoethnography as a living body of thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228 - 237
Number of pages10
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • critical autoethnography
  • critical theory
  • gender and sexuality
  • queer storytelling
  • queer theory

Cite this