Autoethnography

Your Name – An Autoethnographic Study of Shintoism

krisesandchrosses

The area of study which I chose to explore was centred around spirituality in anime with a focus on the successful film Your Name. Throughout this project I have been able to immerse myself in the Shintoism and try to cultivate my understanding and knowledge in relation to Japanese culture by employing my own cultural framework and assumptions (Ellis, 2011).

I found, in my experience, that a few key moments or epiphanies stood out to me, being transformative to my own understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. I was able to understand this through identifying and analysing the following phenomena and evaluating their transformative effects through qualitative research and experiences relating back to my own cultural framework (Moore, 2017).

In this way, as a storyteller, I used the medium of YouTube and video to convey my message to an audience suited to my chosen area of study (Allen-Collinson &…

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Origami – My Autoethnographic Experiences

I love learning new things so having the ability to explore Japanese, Chinese and Korean culture through the use of autoethnography has been awesome. As someone who has dabbled in Japanese culture through high school, I did start off this journey knowing a thing or two about the culture through books and materials the school gave to us. I’m not necessarily saying I know everything about the culture because in reality I only know a very small aspect of something so big, but what I do know has definitely opened my eyes.

Autoethnography is something that has taken me some time to get used to, but looking at it from a new perspective and especially using it during the time of discovering new aspects of Digital Asia’s cultures I have discovered that I was able to sort through my thoughts and ideas in a narrative autoethnographic form. By doing this my narratives would place emphasis on what I was thinking/feeling and remembering while engaging in these topics.

For my Digital Artefact, I followed an epiphany that I had during the week and chose to look further into the art of origami and specifically paper cranes. In order to make my research into an autoethnographic experience, I chose to investigate the history behind the folding of origami and paper cranes while also drawing on my own experiences with making these cranes for my art project.

Origami is the art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures which originated in Japan. The crane is considered a mystical animal that is believed to live for thousands of years and because of this, they have become a symbol of good luck and long life. Origami was considered a ceremonial and religious art form since the symbol of the crane is lucky and sacred. A sense of wonder about the paper cranes sparked my curiosity which leads to the art of origami.

When approaching this subject to find out the history of the practice I chose to try and look at it in an autoethnographic way. Autoethnography is known as a genre of writing which displays multiple levels of consciousness, which connects the personal to the culture (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011). When looking at this practice I wanted to place emphasis on the study of the practice and my research and interaction with the practice.

When approaching the research side of the project I wanted to find out as much as I could about the evolution and history of origami. To do this I found a lot of websites that gave me information on the folding methods and also interesting points about its history. I found that there weren’t many academic articles about the topic so I chose to use those instead.

Coming into the research aspect of the project I found that I knew very little of the history of origami and origins of paper cranes. I found that most if not all of the information was new to me and in the long run I found out a whole lot more of a culture that I found intriguing.  The research as a whole did give me a lot more information, understanding, and insight into the culture and in hindsight, by researching the topic more I did end up understanding the practice a whole lot more which changed my outlook on the project. It started as something that I was doing because it was pretty and fascinating to something I was doing because I loved the history and story behind it and wanted to delve into the culture.

The criteria for the art piece is to create a device of wonder that spurs imagination, examination, investigation, and speculation that is caused by something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar. Devices of wonder invite the audience to engage in the work and ultimately become a part of it. The idea of curiosity is sparked between an individual’s and the work encourages investigation which is where the idea of someone becoming a part of the work is explored.

The prototype of the art piece was successful when it was put together and everything turned out how I wanted it. There were, however, setbacks though with the process of actually putting it up and hanging it from the roof. The reality was that my prototype was only a small indication of how it would look and I did need to change the way that the cranes were hanging from the mesh to get the impact that I wanted from the audience.

I thought that folding all these paper cranes would end up turning in to a chore and I would despise paper after, however, I think that the process of folding paper cranes has become quite therapeutic for me to do after having a stressful day or just needing some time alone.  Through experiencing this I have an understanding why this practice was originally an art form for formal ceremonies as well as an elegant way to pass the time.

 

A Flying Axe Covered in Glitter and Bubblegum

 

Tayla Bosley

5050583

DIGC330

Digital Artefact:

Autoethnographic Essay:

Autoethnography, as stated by Ellis (2011) is “an autobiographical genre of writing that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural.”

I think this is the absolute best way to summarise autoethnography, and I think I have achieved this in my project. By relaying through self-reflexivity, the multiple accounts of my personal experience with kawaii metal, then critically analysing those experiences and subsequent epiphanies. I hope to have brought a critical understanding of the genre to those that have read my posts, and listened to my podcasts.

As I stated in my blog post ‘Narrative Truth’, my goal has been to walk that knife’s edge “…between rigorous, theoretical, analytical science, and therapeutic, personal, and social experience-writing.” Therefore connecting my personal experience to the culture of kawaii metal, and enabling those who engage with my work to gain a deeper understanding of kawaii metal.

However, I also agree with Foley (2002) in his criticism of the practise of autoethnography. Foley advocated for a more reflexive epistemological and narrative approach to the research methodology. He believes that by doing this, creating more of a story than a research paper, it would make autoethnographies more engaging and a more common genre of research. Which could contribute to bridging the gap between researchers and ordinary people.

I must agree with Foley, I think that the more engaging, and story-like an autoethnographic account is, the more people will understand and relate to it. This alternative method has a higher chance of achieving the goal of autoethnography; relating the personal to the cultural.

Which is why my autoethnographic podcast is filled with anecdotal stories, creative opinion pieces, and the unending stream of kawaii metal songs under my words. I wanted to give the listener every possible narrative understanding of kawaii metal.

Of course this story-like format that I champion comes with its own limitations. For one, as Mendez states, autoethnography in all its forms require honesty, and a willingness to self-disclose from the researcher.

This is especially important for researchers like me, who desire a more story-like experience, as it can be all too easy to slip from story-like into fairy-tale.

As Anderson (2006) fears, “Autoethnography loses its sociological promise when it devolves into self-absorption.” What I’ve learnt is that this is what makes autoethnography so interesting, and yet so difficult. It is again walking that knife’s edge, between relaying your experience of the culture, and relaying yourself to the reader. While each autoethnographic account is through the researcher’s eyes, the focus should never stray from the culture itself.

There are also ethical considerations that must be addressed when using the autoethnographic research method. Many research topics centre around sensitive issues or beliefs in regards to the researcher themselves or the people around them. Due to this, explicit and early consent, and special consideration must be taken into account by the researcher, so as to not offend or impinge upon the privacy of their research volunteers (Wall, 2008, Mendez 2013).

It is also important to note Ellis’ own point about autoethnography, ‘No researcher is an island.’ We all come with our own experiences, our own cultural view point, our biases, and our own understanding. Thus autoethnographic researchers must disclose each aspects of themselves, least their research becomes tainted, and the reader unaware.

Overall though, the autoethnographic method is like any other research tool; it depends on how you use it, and what you want to achieve with it.

Whether it is a clinical recount of events, or your experience of a culture in its entirety. “What matters is the way in which the story enables the reader to enter the subjective world of the teller -to see the world from her or his point of view, even if this world does not ‘match reality’. Another advantage of writing autoethnographically is that it allows the researcher to write first person accounts which enable his or her voice to be heard, and thus provide him or her with a transition from being an outsider to an insider in the research.” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995).

Again, it is this need to bring the outsider inside, which drives the autoethnographic research process. It is making the stranger a friend, and making the alien, home, for both researcher, and reader.

As Ellis said, “On the whole, autoethnographers don’t want you to sit back as spectators; they want readers to feel and care and desire”. And I think this is mostly true of those researchers that use this methodology; their main focus is empathy. When using the autoethnographic method the researcher wants you to feel empathy, as they do while in the research process itself. As it is empathy that incites action (Barkhuizen and Wette 2008)

The entire point, limitations and all, of autoethnography, is to make the reader feel like they are already a part of the culture they are reading about. To make them understand all aspects of the culture through meticulous research, and make them feel like they’ve lived with the culture, through poignant storytelling.

It is this ‘lived in’ feeling that makes autoethnography so powerful for both readers and researchers, and I hope that, in my own reflexive narrative, I have created a story that is filled with the knowledge of kawaii metal, as well as the experience of being a cute girl headbanging to thrash metal music.

References

Songs In Podcast

Aldious: Dominator

BABYMETAL: Doki Doki Morning

BABYMETAL: Gimme chocolate!!

BABYMETAL: Iine!

BABYMETAL: Ijime, Dame, Zettai

BABYMETAL: Karate

BABYMETAL: Megitsune

BABYMETAL: Only the fox god knows audio

Band-Maid: Choose Me

Band-Maid: Real Existence

Band-Maid: Thrill

Bridear: Light in the Dark

Doll$boxx: Loud Twin Stars

Doll$boxx: Take My Chance

Ladybaby: Age Age Money

Ladybaby: Nippon Manju

Websites

Chaisson, J. (2017). This Is A Thing: Kawaii Metal. [online] Geeklyinc.com. Available at: https://geeklyinc.com/this-is-a-thing-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Crook, L. and Ransom, D. (2014). Babymetal’s fusion of Japanese teen pop and death metal is the greatest thing you’ll see today. [online] The Daily Dot. Available at: https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/babymetal-metal-japanese-pop/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). BABYMETAL. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/babymetal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). Baby who?. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/baby-who/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2014). BABYMETAL- the return. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/babymetal-the-return/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Articles

Barbier, E. (2017). A beginner’s guide to Kawaii metal – The Concordian. [online] The Concordian. Available at: http://theconcordian.com/2017/03/a-beginners-guide-to-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Burns, M. (2015). A New Sub-genre of Music Is Growing in Japan. [online] Anitay.kinja.com. Available at: http://anitay.kinja.com/a-new-sub-genre-of-music-is-growing-in-japan-1678920805 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Nash, R. (2016). BabyMetal: Japan’s heavy metal girl-band sensation. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/babymetal-japans-heavy-metal-girl-band-sensation-20160526-gp4pl2.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Threads/Youtube

BABYMETAL. (2017). BABYMETAL. [online] Available at: http://www.babymetal.com/biography/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kluseba (2017). Kawaii metal thread. [online] Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives. Available at: https://www.metal-archives.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=119301 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Hoshiya, Y. (2015). Inside the world of “Kawaii metal”. [online] Kawaii-B. Available at: http://kawaiibuk.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/inside-world-of-kawaii-metal.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BABYMETALofficial. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BABYMETALofficial [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). LADYBABY. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKlfTlx0oY6BiCH7Qvabrhg [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BANDMAID. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BANDMAID [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kikuchi, D. (2016). Spotify finally launches in Japan, a nation where other music streaming services have struggled | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/29/business/tech/spotify-launches-japan-nation-streamers-struggled/#.We07G2iCzIU [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Definitions

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). cute | Definition of cute in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cute [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Cuteness. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuteness [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Kawaii. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii#History

Journal Articles

Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35,373-395.

Barkhuizen, G., & Wette, R. (2008). Narrative frames for investigating the experiences of language teachers. System, 36, 372-387.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Foley, D. (2002). Critical ethnography: The reflexive turn. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(4), pp.469-490.

Hitchcock, G., & Hughes, D. (1995). Research and the teacher. (2 ed.) London: Routledge.

Méndez, M. (2014). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 15(2), p.279.

Wall, S. (2008). Easier said than done: Writing an autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7, 38-53.

 

A reflection on autethnography

What started with a fascination with Japanese sex dolls has ended with an in depth exploration of  how aspects of Japanese society, history, culture and politics affect dating trends.

Throughout the process I have struggled to make myself aware of all of my predispositions and I think this is evident in my research.  However Ellis et al describes epiphanies as transformative experiences and I feel that the entire autoethnographic process has been a tapestry of moments that have altered my perceptions in one way or another.

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Primarily I became aware of western media’s portrayal of the East, especially the quirks of Japanese culture. What I once read as a piece of investigative journalism, I can now see strong elements of sensationalism and drama. For the first part of my research I was extremely caught up in a western voice and perspective on the issue which I believe to be the reason why my first assessment was heavily weighted around the media hook of the herbivore men. It wasn’t until I started to engage with Japanese scholars and government studies that I came to be aware of the broader picture.

Because of this epiphany, I also came to realise how social interactions and practices are so incredibly entrenched within history, custom and locality. In many ways, the struggles that Japanese women face are incomparable to my own or those of my mother and her friends but in some ways they are. For example, the everyday struggle that mothers endure between their careers and children is broadly applicable to both culture’s.

It was interesting to see how the Japanese Government

While attempting to do research while being aware of my own frame of reference I believe that my feelings of intrigue and uncomfortability disintegrated into feelings of understanding and compassion. In alot of ways I think it takes the sense of “other” out of research and establishes a human element, or connection, within the work.

Throughout my research I have learnt so much about the ins and outs of dating trends in Japan while along the way, discovering alot of things about the dating culture in my own sphere.

What sets anime apart: A look at anime through Sailor Moon

In my previous post I uploaded a video of my initial reaction as I watched the first episode of Sailor Moon (1992) and the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal (2014), and then compared the two. This can be viewed here.

As I experienced watching the two shows throughout the video, I was somewhat unclear as to the direction of my investigation. I couldn’t quite articulate the differences I was seeing between the two shows and I put it all down to the lack of experience I have in watching anime.

As a child, Sailor Moon was the first anime I had been introduced to. Besides this and the ever popular Pokemon, I had never been exposed to anime. For the film buff and aspiring entertainment journalist that I am, I have always been more concerned about the more western productions. I’m now ashamed I haven’t considered broadening the scope of entertainment. So for my individual autoethnography project, I’m taking the first step towards broadening my experience by starting with anime.

Anime in general is quite a large topic and a very divergent one at that. Yet I have noticed that they also carry something similar that sets anime apart from every other animation. Their use of expression and other tropes.

Sailor Moon had a more emphasised and obvious tone clearly showing it was anime especially through the expression (this can be seen in the above featured image). Sailor Moon Crystal has been made 22 years later and with modern computer graphics. From initial assumption, I thought that Sailor Moon Crystal had been targeted towards a more western audience because of this slight change, as well as the less obvious tropes included in the show. I tried briefly researching this to see if it were true, but nothing has been mentioned about the possibility of target audience change.

When trying to research Sailor Moon for even the basic information (dates, series info etc) there wasn’t as much information as I thought, not to mention conflicting information. The main sources are from Wikipedia and fansites, although this is a great indication and help to start off with, if I wanted more reliable and scholarly information, it will prove to be quite difficult. Therefore I’m narrowing my focus for the project. I will concentrate my autoethnography project strictly to anime art tropes, using Sailor Moon as a base. Finding more reliable sources to help me recognise what sets anime apart from cartoons.

A YouTuber called LavenderTowne redesigns Usagi (aka Sailor Moon) into a cartoon, giving a great insight to the difference of anime designs and cartoons. In her video she mentions how anime is more realistic due to the closer depiction of human anatomy compared to western cartoons which tend to be more exaggerated. I thought this was a good place to start as LavenderTowne uses her own experience and memories of cartoons growing up, referencing and giving examples of current and previous cartoons helping the audience relate and understand easier. This reminded me of a journal, Autoethnography: An Overview by Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. In the journal Ellis et al states, “they [researchers] seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis et al, 2017). Here is LavenderTowne’s video:

 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

LavenderTowne, 2017. What if Sailor Moon wasn’t an anime? Redesigning Usagi 3 ways!. Online video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm4CwGYifp4

Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno),” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

In my previous post, with the benefits of hindsight, I narrated a past cultural experience. This was the beginning of an autoethnographic story. The analysis of both the experience and how I communicate my experience reveals my cultural framework. Once I recognise such frameworks and the related points of epiphanies,  will I be able to see how my cultural framework structures my project investigation.

I begin my previous post sharing a personal feeling. When reading back on my post, I can remember being hesitant in sharing this information. I know that it is normal to feel conscious about sharing feeling on a public space, but the fact that I did not shy away from the core of my project work shows that, when it matters, I am able to use language to openly communicate. The nature of an autoethnographic narrative encourages this emotive storytelling. It was interesting to do this in an academic context where we are usually not encouraged to share our feelings and personal bias.

I then in my previous post discuss how I regard travel. It is obvious from the beginning that I am using travel as both a way to recharge my personal batteries and also as an escape. I mention my passion for travel and that I value my privilege as a white person. This idea of being me describing myself as a ‘white person’ was interesting to read. I am a very brown female with curly black hair, raised in a very brown family. And in my day to day life in Australia I pride myself on being vocal about racism in Australia as I do often notice the differences (both good and not so good) of being a person of colour in a very white costal town. Here I realise that many aspects of my life, for example my medical care and travel access are defined by the constructs of my life as an Australian, not as a migrant in a white country.

I narrate that the first structured activity I do when arriving in a country was a visit to a historical site. Reading my previous post I reflect to recognise I was raised with the idea that to understand, respect and enjoy a culture, I must learn about their history, from their perspective, in their land. This is something that I have always done as a solo traveller, but did not previously recognise it was something that stemmed from familial travel routines.

I have always valued art. I grew up in a house of classical Indian music, foreign films, so much food from different parts of the world and different languages of literature. As a child there were many reasons I disliked travel with my parents – we never went to theme parks or stayed in luxury hotels,, Instead we were focused on history, art and food. I moved out of home at 17 and thought that I had left my parents travel habits behind (I do love rollercoasters and the very occasional night in a fancy hotel), but they had taught me so much about how to travel.

This cultural framework, being primarily my life as a first generation migrant and my rooted familial values, is what has structured my project. My access to travel and style of travel lead me to Cambodia and the S21 Museum. It was here that I was exposed to the nature of photography in Cambodia.

While epiphanies are self-claimed phenomena in which one person may consider an experience transformative while another may not, these epiphanies reveal ways a person could negotiate “intense situations,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Autoethnography identifies these epiphanies as points of understanding. To put simply, it is only when something stirs or changes that we can recognise a shift. When reading the beginning of my narrative, it is clear that I had one of these epiphanies pushing me to seek something. It was an ‘intense situation’ that demanded reflection and action. At the time, my shift was to travel. In Cambodia I had epiphanies about how strong humanity can be. And about how humanity shares their emotional experience. It is this that inspired me to also use photography as a way to communicate loss.

…writing personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Writing and reading the previous post does feel therapeutic. Using photography as therapy is an extension of this autoethnographic expression as a form of therapy.

This TedxTalk by Bryce Evans provides an investing presentation on photography therapy and how it can help a person navigate through their mental health. Bryce Evans says in this video that – “Everyone knows how to take a photo…photos allow you to connect instantly on an uncurious level, without the stigma to of it (‘it’ being mental health),”. HIN both my previous post and the paragraph above, it is clear that I value maintaining a healthy mental health and believe creative outlets can help me achieve this.

My values framed by my family, my experiences as a migrant, unfortunate ‘intense situations’ in life, my love of photography and focus on mental health has evidently structured my DIGC330 final project.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

This Cambodian Life

I find that my sense of curiosity and wonder peaks when life takes unexpected turns. One such peak occurred earlier this year, late May. A time that forced me to dig into the dark of my stomach and pull out the reserve of energy and hope I hold within me. And although these few handfuls of memories and aspirations fed me through to the end of semester one, I could feel my tank was emptying. And so, like many other privileged first world citizens, I felt the prick and itch to travel. To a space where no one knows me. Somewhere away. Something new.

I soon found an internship in Cambodia and bought a plane ticket. I love how the soles of my feet buzz when getting on a plane, excited to soon be touching unfamiliar earth. And so while many travellers take the obligatory selfie at the Sydney airport Departures sign, I take a picture of my feet.

After several disappointing airport coffees and a room temperature spinach tart, my plane number is finally called. I have never been able to sleep on planes, so instead I re-read for the umpteenth time my trusted Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia. Like many travel guides, the accompanying photographs are stunning. Tantalising street food stalls. Lush green temples. Rich red dirt roads. Streets that scream colour. Bars that promise fun. I could not wait to be living the photos and take pictures of my own.

Photography, specifically travel photography is a personal interest. It is not the pictures that I value, but the moment that it brings – the ability to take me back to a moment so vividly.

After an eighteen hour journey, I arrive in Phnom Penh. Inside the airport it is hot and the customs officials are not welcoming. Outside the airport the locals are smiles and waves. I leave the buzz of the airport and make my way to the side street to find a tuk tuk. I only have one hour to check into my hostel, shower and be ready for a tour of the S-21 Museum and Killing Fields.

The first photographs I saw of Cambodian life taken by Cambodians was at the S-21 Museum. A place that was first a school – a prison and torture centre during the Pol Pot regime – now a museum sharing the harrowing experience. A stark contrast to the photographs in my travel guide. It was here that I learned how the Pol Pot regime destroyed almost all photographs taken before their reign.

While in country, I started looking for local photographers and photo galleries. I spoke to the artist as often as I could and none of them had photographs pre-1975. If a solider found a photograph during a regular raid someone could be killed – the cost of holing onto the physical photo was too risky.

There are many Cambodian photographers who now dedicate their art to documenting their day to day lives, exploring their personal and community identity.

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Vandy Rattana  photographs the every day life of Cambodians. The photographs capture the rebuilding of physical structures, land waste, poverty, office life, family life and meal times. The photographs have philosophical and historical purpose. The image below is a photo of a construction site.

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Neak Sophal photographs the experience of Cambodian women and poverty post Pol Pot. In the picture above, she frames the colloquial Khmer saying, “No rice for pot,”.

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Vuth Luyno photographs the experience of the modern LGBTQ community in Cambodia. The younger population are more likely to accept LGBTQ individual but there is much discrimination and many elements of taboo. In the picture above, he aims to communicate the normalcy of gay relationships – to the right is Sitha’s family, to the left is a recreation of a memory.

Sitha, pictured on the left , describes the context of the memory she chose to reenact:

“I met my wife during the Pol Pot regime when we were digging a canal opposite each other… During rice transplanting month, I went to ask for some salt from her, but she refused…During harvest month, we met again and started to talk, and we fell in love… This love is difficult, because they didn’t let us meet… After 1979, we didn’t get married properly but we created wedding rituals. I play the role of head of the family, as husband and with her as a wife, and we have adopted three children—two daughters and a son—and have six grandchildren. My children call me dad, and my grandchildren call me granddad.””

 

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Pete Pin has conversations with individuals about their life, then takes a portrait that captures the story and intentionality of the person. In the photo above, he was interviewing his Father.

Cambodia for me was a place of learning and love. It was also a place where I was reminded daily that this is a place of loss. As a field NGO researcher, every conversation I had with a local citizen would inform me of the horrors of their war. Almost every family had lost one or several members to the regime.

Here, I learn that modern photography is important. It documents their lives, shares their experience and the work that needs to be done. There is vulnerability and at the same time strength.

There is no way to measure or compare sadness and suffering. So I would like to begin this paragraph by saying that my personal life can never compare to a genocide. Inspired by these photographers, I would like to create a photography portfolio for my final DIGC330 assessment. As a student in my final semester of uni and a women working through loss, I want to document this section of my life. I am hoping to include both pictures of my day to day life, landscape and portraits to create this portfolio.

Photographs are all the courtesy of the artist and found here. I was not able to write about all the artists, but I highly recommended visiting both the site above and the site here.

Alternative Ulaanbaatar

As suggested by Ellis et al (2011) this blog post is written to analyse my personal experience to understand Mongolian hip hop. I have had my initial experience of listening and watching a couple of music videos on Youtube, but has this really given me a full understanding? No. Not at all.

To really understand in an ethnographic sense the cultural significance hip hop has in Mongolia I really have to do some research into certain parts of the practice. In this blog post I will be exploring hip hop as a cultural practice, the significance of music culture in Mongolia, traditional throat singing and where that fits in and how this all ties into the cultural act of hip hop in Mongolia. By the end of this hopefully I will have more of an understanding and reflect on the possible transformative epiphanies I hope to have with this experience. Everyone else is having them, I want in on that!

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What is Hip Hop?

So to begin this exploration into Mongolian hiphop one must know what the hip hop ideology is in itself and how the Mongolian society embraced it for themselves.  Hip hop has been a cultural phenomenon in countries around the world specifically in African American culture. The roots of hip hop have been in African oral traditions, passed down through slavery and then through a way of social commentary (Blanchard, 1999). The appeal that hip hop had on a society that had been in the grips of a soviet backed government called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was massive.
The MPRP had attempted to isolate Mongolia from the outside reaches of the west but alas, the curiosity of youth will prevail. Illegally circulated music and items piqued the youth of Mongolia’s interest and as MPRP realised, they did not have the power to stop it all together. They invested in their own brand of popular music and created bands to create their nationalistic music (Marsh, 2010). This only lasted as long as it took for technological and communications to evolve and for popular culture from the ‘West’ to seep in through media as well as influences from a struggling economic and political climate to create a window of opportunity for the young Mongolian population to move on.  Mongolian artists turned hip hop into way of exploring and announcing their societal and cultural problems and issues (Marsh, 2010). This is the essence of hip hop and Mongolian hp hop is no different, it just has a different sound and face. 

Music in Mongolia and Traditional Throat Singing

The Mongolians have been known as “a people of music and poetry.” Their singing, sonorous, bold, passionate and unconstrained, is the true reflection of the temperament of the Mongolian people. (China.org.cn, n.d.)

Mongolia has a rich and deep musical history. When one thinks of Mongolia one might think of the image of a nomad perched on the top of a mountain that is sprinkled with snow, surrounded by… goats? Singing but not in the way you and I might sing. A throaty, raw and echoing call. It’s not the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of modern Mongolian music but there are those who are blending this ancient act into the new music culture.


In my ethnographic research the first and foremost group that stood out to me was Fish Symboled Stamp. They are a Mongolian hip hop group that incorporate their traditional throat singing or “Koomei” into their songs (Campbell and Singh, 2017). The undulations of the Koomei mixed with the 4/4 time stamp of heavy hip hop makes for a seriously confronting sound. But instead of just listening to their sound I know I needed to go deeper into what a Mongolian hip hop group write about, why and how it is received in Mongolia.

Mongolian hip hop artists are writing in this modern age about the cultural themes and  values that they are observing through their lives where they live. Hip hop for young Mongolian’s is a creative way to express ‘one’s self, angst and perception of life, which requires no ghetto-like background or experience” (Wallace, 2015). Here is where it gets a bit hard due to the language barrier, of how to find out what artists are writing about. As explored in Marsh’s article there have been groups that rap about women, alcohol and money and even “imitating” African American rappers, but this has not been welcomed by some in the hip hop community (Marsh, 2010). But most that have been translated by Marsh have been regarding the social and economic issues that relate to their communities and society. In history, Mongolian music is made up of songs about stories, epic tales, love and nature. Songs particularly pertaining to horses, historical events and legends (Hays, 2016). In an interview with the artists Bataar and Odsaikhan in Fish Symboled Stamp, they reveal that their lyrics are dominated by their culture including Mongolian history and legacies (Campbell and Singh, 2017).

My Epiphanies Regarding Mongolian Hip Hop 

I’ve realised throughout this research whilst listening to the music I’m engaging with, that it’s more than what’s on the surface. To understand why this music style is so popular, it’s more than just the type of music. It is the content, the lyrics, the meaning, the cultural significance of using the throat singing and the context of the artists in Mongolia. I’ve realised that I am so constricted by my own language barrier that exploring into a different culture and therefore language has barred myself from fully enjoying and ‘getting’ the music. I feel like to appreciate the music, you really need to realise and understand that there is a cultural significance to the words and feelings.

But again, I realise through this research and this language setback, is that I’m so white and ‘western’. I take for granted that the music that I surround myself around usually is english based. I get the lyrics, I can sing along without getting the words wrong, I get the language and 9 times out of 10 I get the meanings.

 

References

Blanchard, B. (1999). THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAP & HIP-HOP CULTURE. [online] Web.stanford.edu. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Campbell, J. and Singh, K. (2017). Mongolian melody: Hip-hop duo splices traditional singing and urban beats. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-music/mongolian-melody-hip-hop-duo-splices-traditional-singing-and-urban-beats-idUSKBN1AE011

China.org.cn. (n.d.). Ethnic Groups – china.org.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/shao-2-mongolian.htm

Hays, J. (2016). TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN MUSIC | Facts and Details. [online] Factsanddetails.com. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub88/entry-4593.html

Marsh, P. (2010). Our generation is opening its eyes: hip-hop and youth identity in contemporary Mongolia. Central Asian Survey, 29(3), pp.345-358.

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?

After watching the first couple of episodes of any television show, I will usually make the decision to continue watching the show, or remove it from my Netflix list and never think about it again. Unfortunately, for Terrace House, the latter happened. And it has also been quite a while since watching the show. Whilst remembering what I thought about the show, I’ve somehow forgotten what I actually witnessed. University and an excessive amount of alcohol will do that to you I guess (also a large amount of procrastination, lol help).

Now, Ellis et al defines epiphanies as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life, times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience, and events after which life does not seem quite the same”. This definition is quite intense, yet there are definitely moments in my reaction to Terrace House that made me think differently about Japanese culture.

Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City (テラスハウス ボーイズ&ガールズ イン・ザ・シティ) is a Japanese reality television series. It premiered on Netflix as an original in September 2015. Basically, people that are just like you and me are literally just thrust into a position where they need to live together. To be completely honest with you, just seeing people live their lives seems quite boring to me – I mean, if I wanted to do that, I’d go upstairs and sit with my family every once in a while, right?

 

I made it clear in my video response to the show that I had never seen an Asian show before Bianca introduced me to Terrace House months ago. Although watching Terrace House: Aloha State was quite a different experience to Boys and Girls in the City, as it was set in Hawaii, and some of the people involved were mainly American students. This meant that much of the show was westernised and easy to understand. While watching Boys and Girls in the City, the culture was extremely different to shows I am used to watching.

My personal understanding of reality television (I made this very clear in the video, a little too clear maybe, oops) made me believe that reality television is all about drama and winning a competition. I believe that Australia (and other westernised shows) has a large focus on the drama in a reality show due to the issue of ratings. I also believed that although the reassurance from the ‘commentators’ that the members of the house didn’t have scripts, it felt painstakingly scripted and to be fair – all around boring. I dismissed Terrace House as purely cultural tourism, but I didn’t really understand at first what the show did that set it apart from others of its kind.

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“In a reality TV landscape cluttered by fame, hungry pseudo-human caricatures, Terrace House stands alone by simply letting actual humans be delightfully, heartbreakingly human.”

Although there isn’t a large amount of drama in the show and the conflicts are on a much smaller scale, it is to my belief that the Japanese culture would react to this show much better than I did. Since watching the show, and conducting some research, I learned that the Japanese are generalised as being quite polite, and this is also expressed in their body language. An example of this is in the second episode when there are quite extensive scenes dedicated to resolving issues calmly, such as the issue of unwashed dishes.

Justin McElroy coined an article for Polygon that explored the differences between American Reality TV and Terrace House, claiming that reality aims at perverting people “into creatures of perfect ambition, whose every move is a calculated step towards getting what they’re after. Terrace House shows people as they are, big, dumb wads of conflicting, unexamined emotions just trying to get by.”

Although I believe this to be true, I am also fully understanding to the fact that the Japanese are generally quite polite, genuine and friendly people. Instead of blowing up over unwashed dishes, they will clean the house, and resolve the conflict in a mature and adult manner.

I definitely lack the cultural familiarity that is required to 100% understand Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, yet I can appreciate the traits in some of the cast, such as impulsivity, compassion and the sense of realness that is portrayed.

The show’s cultural differences are large, and one that I realise now that I don’t think I did before is the fact that it takes several episodes for there to be any kind of physical contact between any romantic partners. There are dates, the girls help each other get ready, yet the physical connections aren’t there. This show is a large view into Japanese culture and how it perceives itself, yet it is nothing that I am used to having on my television screen. I believe that now, I know what it’s like if I were to ever come into contact with Japanese people, it’s a truly refreshing look at the world.

I believe that Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City is an accurate portrayal of young, modern, Japanese people and how they live their lives: chasing ambitions and dating people that may lead to something more, but generally just fizzle. There’s also laundry responsibilities, so that’s fun too.