Chapter 1

In this chapter, we introduce islands as spaces of the imagination and look in particular at Newfoundland. We also introduce autoethnography as a research method/ology.

Questions to consider

  1. Reflect on your understanding of islands. How have islands been represented in stories or books you’ve read? What have learned about islands in school? What about the media? Here, at the very beginning of the book, what do islands mean, for you?
  2. This book takes an autoethnographic approach, which situates the researcher’s subjectivity at the heart of the research process. Choose any three autoethnography readings (from the reference below). What might autoethnography offer that other approaches don’t? What might be the limitations of autoethnography?
  3. What might it mean to think with and through islands?

Activity: Write an outline or abstract for a proposed research project that might employ autoethnography. As you write, explore how it feels to imagine yourself as both researcher and participant.


Lighthouse, Cape Spear, Newfoundland. Photo credit: Sonja Boon
Island, Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Photo credit: Sonja Boon
Icebergs, Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador. Photo credit: Lesley Butler

Additional Readings

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Alexander, Bryant Keith, Claudio Moreira and hari stephen kumar. 2012. Resisting (resistance) stories: A tri-autoethnographic exploration of father narratives across shades of difference. Qualitative Inquiry, 18.2: 121-33. doi: 10.1177/1077800411429087.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. 2012. Borderlands/La frontera: The new mestiza. 4th edition. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Baldacchino, Godfrey, ed. 2007. A world of islands: An island studies reader. Charlottetown: Institute for Island Studies.

Baldacchino, Godfrey. 2005. Islands – objects of representation. Geografiska Annaler 87B.4: 247-51.

Barad, Karen. 2007. Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bhaskaran, Suparna. 2004. Made in India: Decolonizations, queer sexualities, trans/national projects. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan.

Bjarnason, David. 2010. Island connections: Icelandic spatiality in the wake of worldly linkages. Island Studies Journal 5.2: 217-36.

Blinne, Kristen C. 2012. Auto(erotic)ethnography. Sexualities 15.8: 953-77.

Boon, Sonja. 2017. Dusting for fingerprints: Bodily traces, embodied memories and the forensic self. Life Writing 14.1: 69-82. doi:

Boon, Sonja. 2012. Autobiography by numbers; or, embodying maternal grief. Life Writing 19 2: 191-202.

Brand, Dionne. 2001. A map to the Door of No Return: Notes to belonging. Toronto: Vintage Canada.

Butz, David, and Kathryn Besio. 2009. Autoethnography. Geography Compass 3.5: 1660-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2009.00279.x.

Chamberlin, J. Edward. 2013. Island: How islands transform the world. Katonah: Blue Bridge.

Chang, Heewon, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann C. Hernandez. 2013. Collaborative autoethnography. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Chang, Heewon. 2008. Autoethnography as method. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Chen, Cecilia, Janine MacLeod and Astrida Neimanis, eds. 2013. Thinking with water. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Cixous, Hélène and Mireille Calle-Gruber. 1997. Hélène CixousRootprints: Memory and life writing. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. London and New York: Routledge.

Crummey, Michael. 2009. Galore. Toronto: Doubleday Canada.

Crummey, Michael. 2014. Sweetland. Toronto: Doubleday Canada.

Defoe, Daniel. 1719. The life and strange surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, mariner. London: Taylor.

Denzin, Norman K. 2014. Interpretive autoethnography. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Diversi, Marcelo and Claudio Moreira. 2016. Performing betweener autoethnographies against persistent us/them essentializing: Leaning on a Freirean pedagogy of hope.” Qualitative Inquiry 22.7: 581-87. doi: 10.1177/1077800415617208.

Ellis, Carolyn. 2013. Crossing the rabbit hole: Autoethnographic life review. Qualitative Inquiry 19.1: 35-45. doi: 10.1177/1077800412462981.

Ellis, Carolyn. 1999. Heartful autoethnography. Qualitative Health Research 9.5: 669-83.

Ellis, Carolyn. 2003. The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek: Altamira.

Ellis, Carolyn and Arthur P. Bochner, eds. 1996. Composing ethnography: Alternative forms of qualitative writing. Walnut Creek: AltaMira.

Ellis, Carolyn and Arthur P. Bochner. 2000. Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In Handbook of qualitative research. 2nd ed., eds. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, 733-68. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Ellis, Juniper. 2000. Literary cartographies in oceania. In Message in a bottle: The literature of small islands, eds. Laurie Brinklow, Frank Ledwell, and Jane Ledwell, 51-64. Charlottetown: Institute for Island Studies.

Golding, William. 1954. Lord of the flies. London: Faber and Faber.

Hay, Pete. 2006. A phenomenology of islands. Island Studies Journal 1.1: 19-42.

Holman-Jones, Stacy, Tony E. Adams and Carolyn Ellis, eds. 2013. Handbook of autoethnography. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Holman-Jones, Stacy. 2002. The way we were, are, and might be: Torch singing as autoethnography. In Ethnographically speaking: Autoethnography, literature, and aesthetics, eds. Arthur P. Bochner and Carolyn Ellis, 44-56. Walnut Creek: Altamira.

Islam, Naheed. 2008. Research as an act of betrayal: Researching race in an Asian community in Los Angeles. In Just methods: An interdisciplinary feminist reader, ed. Alison M. Jaggar, 471-83. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

Lau, Kimberly J. 2002. This text which is not one: Dialectics of self and culture in experimental autoethnography. Journal of Folklore Research 39.2/3: 243-59.

Manning, Susan M. 2017. Contrasting colonisations: (Re)storying Newfoundland/Ktaqmkuk as place. Settler Colonial Studies. Online First. doi:

Marshall, Ingeborg. 1996. A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Martijn, Charles A. 2003. Early Mi’kmaq presence in Southern Newfoundland: An ethnohistorical perspective, c. 1500-1763. Newfoundland Studies 19.1: 44-102.

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Neimanis, Astrida. 2012. Hydrofeminism: Or, on becoming a body of water. In Undutiful daughters: New directions in feminist thought and practice, eds. H. Gunkel, C. Nigianni, and F. Soderback, 85-99. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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(c) Sonja Boon, Lesley Butler, and Daze Jefferies, 2018.