Shacking up: an autoethnographic tale of cohabitation
From Qualitative Inquiry
There is little doubt the landscape of family life has changed over recent decades. As divorce rates thrive and step families are far more common, family relationships may be more complex for many compared to previous generations. This paper is an autoethnographic account of the author’s experience of cohabitation with her partner and his two children. She tries to move beyond her personal experience and comment on the larger social, cultural, and political forces affecting cohabiting families.
This autoethnography describes the author’s experience of cohabitation with her partner of seven years, Sam, and his two children, Mary and Michael. In particular, the author focuses on her troubled relationship with Mary. Using Rambo’s “layered account,” the author weaves together a multiplicity of scenes during the seven years she and Sam have been dating and then cohabiting to show how their relationships are constructed through daily interaction. The author moves back and forth through time and speak from a variety of perspectives and roles, including girlfriend, cohabiting partner, depressed person, professor, and autoethnographer. By intermingling these time periods and voices through autoethnography, the author endeavors to move beyond her personal experience and comment on the larger social, cultural, and political forces affecting cohabiting families. Finally, the author addresses the relational ethics of autoethnographic research.
Jago, B. (2010). Shacking Up: An Autoethnographic Tale of Cohabitation Qualitative Inquiry, 17 (2), 204-219 DOI: 10.1177/1077800410393889