Methodology & Epiphanies on China’s Cosmetic Market

I have been using the autoethnographic methodology for my current research into China and the banning of animal testing on cosmetics. In my previous blog, I utilised the narrative and layered accounts angle of autoethnography, explained by Ellis et al. (2011) as using data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature alongside the author’s experience. I decided that this was the best way to conduct my autoethnographic experience, since I could not physically travel to China and experience the animal testing in the cosmetic industry there myself. Therefore, I had to do the best I could with the Internet and my own personal understanding of animal testing in the cosmetic industry (which was limited). I attempted to critically read as many sources, both supporting and opposing the ban on animal testing in China. This lead me to create a firm viewpoint in which I could express my findings.

 

As I touched on lightly in my previous blog, I was first drawn to this topic to expand my mind about an issue I have avoided previously. This is partly due to my farm upbringing and avoidance of topics that conflict with my support of the agricultural industry. While I agree with the purpose of animals as a source of food, I do not entirely agree with using animals for scientific testing. Also, enforcing this belief in not using animals for testing purposes, is that technological advances offer more and if not better alternatives to animal testing in the cosmetic and health industries.

 

This autoethnographic style article written by Thomas Hartung (2008), expresses his views based on his personal experience of years working in the field, on the EU changes in cosmetic animal testing. It helped to inform how I expressed my own research on the topic in China, due to my limited experience and expertise in the industry. It enforced my approach as writing a personal story on how I reacted to the research rather than focusing on the facts of the situation, so that my readers can empathise with the research rather than critique its content. Ellis et al. (2008) discusses how verisimilitude evokes a feeling in readers with the experience as lifelike, believable and possible. It was according to this that I attempted to persuade my readers at the end to think about their own personal choices when it comes to purchasing cosmetic products, because they do have the ability to make a change. Even though my readers are mostly Australian University students, and my blog discusses the Chinese market, there are parallels that can be drawn between the two and implicated within our lives.

 

Another aspect of autoethnography that I employed in my research is, explained by Holman, Jones (2005, p.764) as “researching and writing socially-just acts; rather than a preoccupation with accuracy” and to also use “analytical, accessible texts that change us and the world we live for the better”. This influenced the aspect of my research, I decided to delve into a subject that isn’t too well known and just scratch the surface to spread awareness. This provides the audience with the opportunity to look into the topic in more depth and make their own conclusions. My experience is included only to attract others attention who may not usually be interested in the subject.

 

During my research I had a few major epiphany moments, that I documented in my notes whilst I was investigating the Chinese cosmetic market. My first epiphany was questioning what alternatives are used instead of animals for testing cosmetic products? This was an important question for me and discovering the answer dictated how I continued my research. I learnt more about how the technological advances have made it possible and irrelevant for the use of animals to be tested on.

 

Another epiphany was regarding my interest in the Marketing and Public Relations aspect of my research, these communicators have a large part to play in spreading information and awareness of animal testing in global markets. I was researching into the Marketing Agency, Gentleman Marketing Agency, and noticed that they have an interest in seeing a cruelty-free cosmetic market, yet little has been done to spread this awareness, presumably due to the clients they are working for. This lead me to noting the opportunity for Marketing and Public Relations, along with the Media, to do their part in stopping animal testing, through advertisements and communication.

 

My understanding of using the autoethnography when conducting research after this experience, has taught me that it can be a useful tool when attempting to generate interest surrounding a topic. By using personal experience, audiences are drawn and are more personally interested in the topic, rather than a dry straight academic recounting of a topic.

 

 

 

 

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

Gentleman Marketing Agency 2017, Welcoming Gesture of China for non-animal tested imported cosmetic products,Cosmetics China Agency, viewed 8th September 2017, < http://cosmeticschinaagency.com/welcoming-gesture-china-non-animal-tested-imported-cosmetic-products/&gt;

Hartung, T & Leist, M 2008, ‘Food for thought on the evolution of toxicology and the phasing out of animal testing’, University of Konstanz, vol. 2, pp. 91-96. <http://kops.uni-konstanz.de/bitstream/handle/123456789/8336/Altex2008hartungLeistUK.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&gt;

Holman Jones, Stacy (2005). Autoethnography: Making the personal political. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp.763-791). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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4 comments

  1. Your own cultural framework is clearly evident in your reading of your experience of China’s cosmetic market – use this to your advantage. From reading your experience in research of this culture, why are these laws implemented in China for animal testing. What are some of the key processes, activities, encounters, conversation that evident in terms of action for/against this industry – your farm upbringing and support for agriculture are valuable here. You have channelled your interest in marketing and PR to lay down solid foundations and tease out avenues of investigation, awesome! I like where you are going with this industry/culture and look forward to seeing more!

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  2. I enjoyed the read of your blog as it is on an issue that I am interested in but I’ve never thought to look at how it is treated in another culture. I like how you explained the way your research has been shaped due to the inability to see the issue first hand and the method for still being able to effectively communicate about it. It was also good to see how you have now adapted your research to inform others about the issue which I’m sure wasn’t the first thing you thought of doing. Good work relating it back to your own life as well, the links to marketing and growing up on a farm were good evidence of this 🙂

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  3. A brilliant post delving deeper into both your motivations and cultural biases regarding your interaction with this topic. As evidenced within the Ellis et al reading, it is pertinent to not only acknowledge your own limitations, but to also recalibrate your research direction with these limitations in mind. This is something that you have been forced to do as a result of your geographic location. But kudos for continuing on with your research, despite the difficulties that you acknowledged. Your interactions with animals, and your upbringing poses an interesting set of questions. Within Australia, there seems to be an equal push for animal-free living as a whole compared to just animal-free testing. Your conviction in the, I guess, normalcy of animal consumption juxtaposes a lot of the dominant discourses surrounding the issue within Australia. You experience an opinion that contrast others, so it’s quite easy to see how this could also be applied to China and its interaction with animal testing, but also the way in which it navigates transnational ideas regarding animal rights and notions of equity. Does China deserve to be in the international firing line? The understanding of cultural customs, histories and administrative policies will be pertinent to your study. I’m actually pretty intrigued to see where you take this.

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  4. It was interesting knowing your perspective on such as provocative topic. During your research, it seems as if you have out a lot of thought into understanding the nature of your responses… especially as someone with a background in agriculture. As someone who addresses their fondness for animals, I find that I too avoid discussion on certain animal right issues. This is honestly due to the continued reliance I have on many of their products. Cosmetics seem to have a long history of animal-testing and the question you addressed of ‘what are the alternatives?’ is an important thing that needs to be discussed.

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