Autoethnographic Fragments of My Grandmothers

15 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2009 Last revised: 30 Sep 2009

See all articles by Michael Hemmingson

Michael Hemmingson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: April 15, 2009


Using the practice of autoethnographic vignettes and sketching as a launching point, the author creates a form he calls “autoethnographic fragments” that represent memories of his two grandmothers, moments of their lives entwined with his childhood, and their passing away from cancer and failing health. The theory fragmented writing is derived from Derrida‟s The Post Card, or envois of texts never written. Each fragment is limited to six sentences and is performative social science, as advocated by Denzin (2003). Autoethnographic fragments provide images and feelings from longer narratives of memory, without revealing the entire (unwritten) text of the memory. The author questions the authenticity of mimesis through this incompleteness. Using sociological introspection, the author explores his current feelings and thoughts regarding death, loss, cancer, and the verisimilitude of autoethnographic writing.

NOTE: This paper won the 2009 Norman K. Denzin Qualitative Research Award, sponsored by the Carl Couch Center. I thank the judges for their choice and the honor of winning an award named after a sociologist who has influenced me greatly, and whose contributions to research over the decades cannot be matched.

Keywords: autoethnography, fragment, Derrida, grandmothers, Norman K. Denzin Award

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Hemmingson, Michael, Autoethnographic Fragments of My Grandmothers (April 15, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Hemmingson (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
PMB 241
La Jolla, CA 92093-5010
United States


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