Autoethnography

When I first came to Australia, I made a foolish promise to myself: I would never use my cultural background as basis for any of my university projects, or as the foundation to voice any of my subjective statement. The reason for such an absurd, pointless and no less childish made-up principle was partially because I thought that in order to assimilate into the Australian culture, I have to forgo of my background, something that the people around me would be unfamiliar with (when I first came here the campus had approximately 100-150 Vietnamese students so I spent the first 6 months here not speaking my mother tongue). I tried hard to be Western while concealing the part of my identity that is “Vietnamese”. While it is not uncommon for a Vietnamese person to be ashamed of his/her nationality (yes it is quite common, and very sad), that was not the case for me. In fact, I feel rather indifferent about my cultural background. In other words, I believe that a person identity is determined by the various course of actions that s/he decided to take in respond to the surrounding circumstances. I can have the qualia more similar to that of a Western person despite my background.

However, the more I tried to hide it, the more I realised how foolish I was. Social construct is not something one could forcibly repress by sheer effort. My personality, my perspective and my various tendencies are the products of my background. The more I distanced myself from it, the more I longed for any form of exposure to it, the more I felt vulnerable and sensitive whenever the topic was invoked. Thus, I was constantly finding myself desperately hanging onto any kinds of fruitless relationship I could have with people of the same cultural background. I felt isolated being surrounded by friends of different backgrounds.

Thus, I stopped being foolish.

Well look where we are now.

The first time that the term “autoethnography” was mentioned, I feel bothered. Is it even possible for me, a person who used to be so committed in repressing the expression of his cultural background, to suddenly dig it up and utilise it as a mean to perform qualitative research. The fact is that, I might even have less knowledge about the said background than a keen researcher of that topic.

Therefore, I perceived DIGC330 as a chance for me to make peace with the conflicted part of my identity and a way enrich my epiphanies.

 

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3 comments

  1. This post was really clear and upfront about your experiences and cultural framework and understanding which is such a big part of the subject (and autoethnography)! It would be great if you could connect this more to the autoethnographic process and clarify why it is important and for what reasons.

    Like

  2. What a way to reason with yourself! Self-reflection can be a hard task and I can imagine many autoethnographers would be empathetic with each-other due to this process of research. Throughout this post it was interesting to understand your experience as an international student. Like Mel, I would have loved to know why you think drawing on personal experience is important.

    Like

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