This is an autoethnographic poem. It shows one of the limits of autoethnography.

I feel sick

  it is too much

      I hear you, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you

      and you, and you, and you, and you…

  there are too many

      words

      stories

      voices

and I don’t know what to do

Andrew Herrmann said: “Through story, narrative, and autoethnography, we find our fears are not ours alone.”1 Ronald Pelias wrote: “By writing we create a space where others might see themselves.”2

I wrote an autoethnographic book about living at the university, and I know now that I’m not alone. We are legion. A swarm of wounded academics, hurt by bad management and neoliberalism.3

                  How many things could I tell you…

  We are legion

     Legion of sad stories.

     And what can I do?

     I see you.

     I hear you.

          Jesus, how many things could I tell you…

     I hear you, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you,

     I hear you, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you…

  And I lost hope

     Too much

     Too many

        pain, sorrow, words, stories

        bloods and screams

        can’t hear

        can’t see

I will, we will, write another story. And another. Alone, together. It might matter.

Do these stories make the world a better place?4 Do they challenge the dominant and dominating existent forms of social life/reality?5 Do they cure?6

I believed in autoethnography, but now, after feedback from readers, I doubt. Voices from readers evoke dark, sad feelings. They write:

  Your book has shown me

  there are more of such idealists

  because you write about me

  because we have similar wounds

  hope

  you will survive

     I am gone

     I am broken

     I am scared

     I do not sleep

     I barely eat

       my body

          you know…

  I will fight a little more

  then

  I will disappear

       I quickly turn the key

  I am writing to you

  my words

    about a corporation that calls itself the Academy

    about how an employee is treated

    about my hurried escapes to a room in the workers’ hostel

    where I quickly turn the key

    and

    I will not go out for a smoke anymore

    I am scared

      I am broken

        what they have done to me

        to us

          what they do

    how many things could I tell you…

    I am scared

    I am lost

    I am broken

      I have lost everything

      the work

      —never mind

    the face

    the good opinion

    my health

      —never mind

    I could not defend myself

    after losing my job

    I could not mess with them

    I am a nervous wreck

    how many things could I tell you…

      —never mind

      hope you do well

  I was kicked out

  I do not know what I can tell you

    they

    —never mind

      I will disappear

      I am broken

      Good luck

Too much…too many…just stories and suffering.

Maybe, they will help, help me survive. Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently.

But now

      I suffer—

nothing changes.

The helplessness of autoethnography.

          I hear a voice

          “We are dangerous”7

          But now

          I whisper

          We are not.

Notes

1

Andrew F. Herrmann, “Ghosts, Vampires, Zombies, and Us: The Undead as Autoethnographic Bridges,” International Review of Qualitative Research 7, no. 3 (2014): 337.

2

Ronald J. Pelias, “Performative Writing as Scholarship: An Apology, an Argument, an Anecdote,” Cultural Studies ↔Critical Methodologies 5, no. 4 (2005): 419.

3

The Polish neoliberal transformation of both the economy and universities has a unique character; see Maria Czerepaniak-Walczak, “Autonomia w Kolorze Sepii w Inkrustowanej Ramie KRK. O Procedurach i Treściach Zmiany w Edukacji Akademickiej,” in Fabryki Dyplomów Czy Universitas? edited by Maria Czerepaniak-Walczak (Kraków: Impuls, 2013), 29–56; Oskar Szwabowski, “Gra w Uniwersytet. Virtual U jako menedżerska maszyna dydaktyczna,” Zeszyty Naukowe Collegium Balticum 10 (2016). However, in general, the neoliberal regime is destructive for human relations and life, and the neoliberal university is the place where we can no longer dwell. We are excluded, divided, and subsumed under the administration. There are tendencies to increase supervision over research and teaching, the development of the audit culture, the redefinition of “autonomy,” the transformation of the organizational culture, the precarisation of academic workers and students. In the new regime in Polish academy, competing for prestige starts to resemble competing for survival.

4

Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams, and Arthur P. Bochner, “Autoethnography: An Overview,” [40 paragraphs] Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 12, no. 1 (2010): Art. 10, nbn-resolving.de/urn: nbn: de:0114-fqs1101108

5

Ken Gale, “Writing Minor Literature. Working with Flows, Intensities and the Welcome of the Unknown,” Qualitative Inquiry 22, no. 5 (2016): 304.

6

Herrmann, “Ghosts,” 334.

7

Christopher N. Poulos, “Autoethnography. A Manifestory,” International Review of Qualitative Research 10, no. 1 (2017): 34.