Balancing vulnerability and catharsis in an autoethnography about adoption.

LEWIS, C. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


University research ethics panel’s recognise ‘autoethnography can be a very challenging, even troubling, experience for the author’ (Dashper 2015, p. 511).
By inhabiting multiple female roles, namely I am an adoptee, who has adopted children and I am a University tutor, I realise the multifaceted lenses I look through could actually intensify my vulnerability as an autoethnographic researcher. Nevertheless, each of my roles are central to achieving the balance between catharsis and vulnerability, in informing how I would balance my decisions of what narratives to share and indeed how to share them.

Significantly, as I occupy multiple female roles, I am part of the salient adoption discourse on several levels, which ‘is, on the whole, gendered as feminine’ (Chen 2016, p. 162). Once a child is adopted, particularly in closed adoptions, they are inserted into a social system of concealment, into a minority. This works to reduce the power of uniqueness and different expression for the adoptee. Specifically, in my research, through self-reflexivity and self-introspection, it became clear that gender and hierarchy were intertwined and crucial in balancing vulnerability and catharsis, and so became important factors in my decision making of what to share. On the one hand, sharing emotional gendered interactions could place me in a vulnerable position inter-relationally. Yet through the synthesis of my voice and the voices of participants, I could cathartically and potentially act as an agent for social justice, in voicing the subjugated and subverted experience of adoptees and adoptive mothers.
Period26 Oct 2018
Event titleCARN annual conference: Voicing and Valuing: Daring and Doing
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United Kingdom


  • Autoethnography
  • Adoption
  • Vulnerability