Telling Secrets, Revealing Lives: Relational Ethics in Research With Intimate Others

by Carolyn Ellis
Qualitative Inquiry ()


This article focuses on relational ethics in research with intimate others. Relational ethics requires researchers to act from our hearts and minds, acknowledge our interpersonal bonds to others, and take responsibility for actions and their consequences. Calling on her own research studies, the author examines relational ethics in ethnographies in which researchers are friends with or become friends with participants over the course of their pro- jects. Then she examines autoethnographic narratives in which researchers include intimate others in stories focusing on their own experience. Considering ethical responsibilities to identifiable others, she discusses writing about those who are alive and those who have died. She then reflects on the ways co-constructed autoethnographies circumvent some of the ethical issues in traditional qualitative studies on unfamiliar others, yet avoid some of the ethical concerns in writing about intimate others. The last section presents advice for those who long to write about intimate others.

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