The purpose of this study is to explore how people I interview engage in Earth-based food, medicine, and spiritual practices in their everyday lives and why. Ultimately, I hope this exploration will help shape a narrative of Earth-based practice based on the experiences people have in their everyday lives. I hope this approach can offer an emerging narrative of environmentalism and environmental practice that is based in people’s relationships with their bodies, the planet, and the philosophies, theories, and systems of devotion that help them to maintain right relationship with themselves, other people, and the planet.
I believe that most research connects to the lives and experiences of the researchers conducting it in some way. I use auto-ethnography as a research methodology because it requires me to connect my life and my experiences to my research. It goes deeper than naming one’s methodology or the way that one is positioned in her research. It requires the researcher to be specific, personal about what brought them to a certain topic, to researching a topic in a certain way, to asking certain questions, to the methods they use to collect and analyze data. This decreases the distance between the person doing research and the “other” people and phenomena the person is researching. It gives both a common point of reference (even if the experiences or people or identities are very different). It makes the research personal.
For example, today I attended the People’s Festival honoring Bob Marley in Wilmington, DE. If I were doing an auto-ethnography. I might write about the smell of jerk and the smoke wafting from a BBQ pit and use that experience as an opportunity to explore Jamaican/Caribbean food culture or the power of scent to elicit memory.
Every question is a locked room waiting to be explored. And often, it is also a book written in a foreign language--which is why solid research methods allow people to learn a lot more than they might have anticipated. I believe that asking the right questions is an excellent step to moving forward in life. Be sure, however, that you are prepared to receive the answers to the question being asked ...