A Parallax Jew: Autoethnography and Transformative Learning

Scholars in many fields have contributed to our knowledge of transformative learning, guiding students toward understanding its foundations, practices, and outcomes. This paper looks at the experience of transformative learning by a scholar using a well established research method—autoethnography—for inquiry at the border of professional and personal life. Sociologist Samuel Heilman explored what a traditional form of reading Jewish texts could mean for what he knew about himself as a Jew. He discovered a path toward deepening his interpretive powers and his way of perceiving and living in the world. Thus, transformative learning is presented as a goal of scholarship complementing its role as a goal of teaching. As an analytic autoethnographer Heilman is determined to reach beyond his observations and encounters toward theorizing social phenomena and transformative learning. He borrows a term from physics to represent the position of autoethnography and, in his case, its contribution to what he comes to know of himself. “Only thus—with a double vision, a parallax view—could I see through the text into my peoplehood.” Supported by transformative experience Heilman finds the durability of belief and the malleability of learning.

Format: Paper Presentation


Steven Weiland, Michigan State University
Session Date & Time: Sat, 09 Apr 2022 | 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM EDT