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Alice through the telescope: A critical autoethnography of an (almost) participatory research process

Collins, Katie


Katie Collins


Social marketing is a technique for behavioural change that has been around since the 1960s, when prominent academics argued that the tools and techniques of marketing could be used for social as well as commercial ends. More recently, the orthodox approach to social marketing - based on the marketing management paradigm - has been challenged and new approaches are emerging. One such development has been characterised loosely as ‘co creation’, which in a social marketing context is understood to mean behavioural change interventions that are developed collaboratively with the target audience, rather than by remote experts.

I present here an autoethnographic study of an 18-month ‘co-created’ social marketing project that sought to reduce risky drinking in two deprived neighbourhoods. Locating myself epistemologically within the post structural approach articulated by critical sociologists (e.g. Laurel Richardson and Norman Denzin), I have written two analytical stories about the project based upon field notes, project documents, emails and recollections. One story is akin to a thick description, the second organised around four emergent themes: negative space, legitimacy, resistance and performativity.

Drawing upon literature from participatory research, international development and activist scholarship, I present a contribution in three parts. First, a detailed ethical and epistemological critique of social marketing’s claims to legitimacy as a methodology of social change; second, the development and theoretical justification of autoethnographic writing as a method for analysing participatory and action research projects; and finally, an exploration of the relationship between identity (internally cultivated and externally imposed), social inequality and social activism via evocative writing as “the very possibility of change” (Cixous, 1976, p. 879).


Collins, K. Alice through the telescope: A critical autoethnography of an (almost) participatory research process. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords participatory, autoethnography, cocreation, alcohol


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