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My Body, My Care of the Self: Ethics of Disorientation and Narratives of Vulnerability

Sun, April 30, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Floor: Meeting Room Level, Room 207 B


This paper specifically addresses AERA's question, "How do we ensure that our inquiry and research questions are relevant, and in what ways is the rigor of our research matched by the rigor of methodological frameworks and approaches, interpretation of results, and application of knowledge?" This paper aligns Foucauldian ethical framework with the real-world, daily practices of regimes of caring for the self by using my body as a site of inquiry/analysis. Utilizing the theoretical framework of Michel Foucault’s care of the self, specifically the care of the self which includes, ethical substance, mode of subjection, self-forming activity, and telos (Foucault, 1985, 1986, 1997), I describe the personal and intimate ways in which caring for my body puts forth the onto-epistemological notions of an ethics of disorientation, or self-forgetting (see Bernauer, 1990) as well as advocating for research as narratives of vulnerability, which entails identifying with the corporality and sensuality of the researcher rather than privileging objectivity and rationalism of research.

This paper utilizes Foucault’s notion of the care of the self (Foucault, 1997). The four parts include:
1. Ethical substance: Which part of myself do I focus on to alter or shape in order to be an ethical subject?
2. Mode of subjection: How am I invited or encouraged to fashion myself in a certain way to be an ethical subject?
3. Self-forming activity: What practices do I engage in order to fashion myself as an ethical subject?
4. Telos, or goal: What kind of being do I want to become? (Foucault, 1997)

Modes and Materials of Inquiry
I use personal experiences to describe how I take care of my body and self. This paper is descriptive in nature using narrative (Kim, 2015) to inspire readers to create their own entry points to the depicted struggles and the ways in which I am encouraged to take care of my body/self. I explain how the care of self centers around discourses and practices about the materiality of fat and how gendered prescriptions of bodily contortments alter how I care for myself. I weave together personal narratives and experiences with Foucault’s perspectives on the care of the self. Rather than trying to explain Foucault’s ideas of the care of the self, this paper puts his ideas to use in my life and experiments with the messiness of Foucault’s ideas in order to foster a research agenda that promotes a narrative of vulnerability in qualitative inquiry. Inquiry in this vein embodies the visceral and the sensual in the research experience.

This paper illustrates how to operationalize Foucault’s care of the self framework as well as advocates for an ethic of disorientation and narratives of vulnerability in qualitative inquiry.

It is critical that in an age of measurable indicators, that our tools of inquiry disrupt such calls and create spaces for disorientation and vulnerability to yield key insights. Thus, putting Foucault to work while introducing two framing concepts could offer key possibilities for onto-epistemological approaches to qualitative inquiry.