By Claudia, Mel and Isabel
“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
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.
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.
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,”.
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.””
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this blog post I’ll be analysing my previous post on my experience with stand-up comedy in Japan, so for those of you reading this post that haven’t read the post I did before, go read it. I chose to look at Japanese stand-up because I have a huge passion for stand up. I was curious as to what I would find in Japan, the country that has already given me so much. Anime, manga, ramen, sushi, so many amazing video games, all stuff that I love and all from Japan. Surely there stand up would be amazing as well.
In my analysis of my experience I will be looking at the epiphanies I had while I was immersing myself in Japanese stand up and the culture around it. Now the definition of epiphanies given in Ellis et al’s reading on Autoethnography ,
“remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same.”
May be a bit strong considering I’m talking about watching Japanese stand up on Youtube, but the premise still rings true. I’m looking at the moments that I remember that changed what I thought about stand up in Japan.
The first epiphany I had, and I’m not sure if I even wrote about it in my first blog, is that there didn’t seem to be a lot of comedians, at least not on stage performing a stand-up routine I’m used to. I’ve learnt that the reason I couldn’t find more comedians isn’t because people just aren’t putting the videos on Youtube, or I just wasn’t looking well enough. It’s because in Japan the way for a comedian to make it big isn’t to go into stand up in the way that I’m familiar with, but to go into television. For the prime time shows in Japan it’s a necessity to have comedians on the show, either as a contestant competing in one of the many weird competitions to come out of Japanese television, or as a host. Some people claiming around 80% of the tv personalities in Japan are comedians, so with such high numbers going into TV it’s easy to see why there aren’t many acts performing stand up like I’m used to.
The second and biggest epiphany I had was that there were quite a few different types of acts, and looking into it I found there were more than I thought. There are 5 main styles of comedy that all of the acts in Japan fall roughly under, and some may be a mix of a few.
The first is Kyogen, an old form of comedy dating back to the 14th century. Kyogen is based on slapstick and satire, and performed in an outdated version of Japanese. Gamarjobat were probably the closest thing I saw to this, though they don’t speak for the most part.
The second is Manzai, which features a straight man, known as a Tsukkomi, and a funny man, known as a Boke, that quickly trade jokes. You only have to watch one Abbot and Costello bit, and you’ll understand what Manzai is. This was probably the type of act I saw the most, and its that’s probably because it’s the style that works best on stage.
Third we have Konto, and it’s really just a subgenre of Manzai. In Konto groups perform short bits that revolve around a comical story, weird situation, or strange encounter. A lot of the double acts seemed to perform in this style if it was a longer performance, rather than just a short video.
Forth we have a style that I missed the first time around, rakugo. In rakugo, the performer sits in a kimono with their legs tucked under and tells a funny story. I don’t know how I missed any of these acts the first time I was looking into Japanese stand up, probably because it’s quite unique. I watched a few after I found out about it and it’s not really like anything I’ve seen before. Even with comedians who just tell stories, rakugo is different. There also seems to be a real mix of what looks like more traditional rakugo performances and modern performances that are trying to change things up. The traditional performances were kind of like some of the really long jokes that your grandpa might tell you, where the modern ones, for lack of a better word, where just weird.
The fifth and final style is Owarai, this pretty much encompasses everything else in the modern comedy seen in Japan. Owarai acts tend to be regulars on Japanese variety shows, game shows, food segments, travel features and musical performances. From what I’ve seen this is where the majority of the comedians in Japan are going.
So here we are at the end of my analysis of my exploration of Japanese stand up. I definitely feel like I have grown in my understanding of the topic, but I don’t know if I got what I wanted. I didn’t really go into this with an agenda, I think there was part of me that wanted to find that Japanese stand up was just going to be the same as the stand-up I’m used to but only focusing on this idea I have of life in Japan that I have in my head. I’m glad I didn’t find that in the end, it would have been weird, and the stuff that I found was funny and I genuinely laughed at most of the acts I watched.
After listening to the podcast My date with a doll man in Japan, I went straight into a Googling frenzy. For the next few hours I went down a dating in Japan rabbit hole and it seemed that a lot of Western media were right there with me.
Within the last year and a half there has been a considerable amount of research, or more specifically, interest in the current state of dating in Japan and it’s causes and effects. Across the articles and videos, there appeared to be resounding sentiments of intrigue, extreme uncomfortability and more often than not, judgement. These feelings varied in degrees however upon reflection, I realised that to an extent, they mirrored my own. My googling hysteria was fuelled by intrigue and my uncomfortability drove me to desperately needing to understand more. Also too, to diminish the feelings of judgement that I was trying so hard to ignore.
Throughout the research was a popular buzzword sōshoku-kei danshi otherwise known as, herbivore men, coined by author and pop culture columnist Maki Fukasawa. Herbivore men were discussed in my podcast however the broader media appeared to be going to great lengths to deconstruct and understand the phenomenon. Fukasawa discussed how men from Japan’s baby boomer era were proactive with their sexual desires and romantic interests however with the faltering economy of today, masculinity is faltering too.
This served to be my first Aha! moment. To link gender roles to the economy was previously beyond my scope of experience and to then link the state of the economy to dating habits blew my mind. However, after pondering this for two weeks, I cannot believe I did not see this. As a privileged, white and straight woman with open minded parents, I have not felt pressurised by economic pressures or social expectations as a result of my gender. Additionally, it appeared that Japan was suddenly undergoing a revolution of identity politics .
Professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University, Anne Allison believes that the questions of gender and masculinity are consistent with trends around the world however it has become so problematic in Japan as they are a culture that place such enormous amount of emphasis on men being the breadwinners. With Japan’s freeters (irregular workers) increasing by 7.6 million between 1995 to 2008, this has become hugely problematic for marriage and reproduction as a man without a regular job is considered undesirable.
While processing my first epiphany I decided to look at the comments to see how others had interacted with my experience. All of the comments contributed to the discussion in a great way however Max provided me with some additional material in the form of a Vice video about The Japanese Love industry which brought me my next two epiphanies.
In this video, Ryan Duffy is sent to explore “dying” country of Japan with more people over the age of 65 and the smallest number of people under the age of 15. Throughout the video, Duffy meets the places of “endless menu of relationship replacement services” with pure disdain.
Upon visiting a host club, Duffy interviews a woman who has no interest in dating our marriage because ” when Japanese marry and have kids, as soon as their kids grow up, their love fades”. This was met with cynicism by Duffy however, what I realised in that moment was that the Japanese appear to have an incredible sense of self. These growing trends and opinions of both men and women show us that the Japanese put themselves as individuals first which is something I was not taught to do. To be honest, I very much respect and admire this sense of self confidence and self adoration. Importantly, as a girl who has jumped from relationship to relationship I applaud the strength of character that these women show.
Next on Duffy’s hit list is was a Cuddle Cafe where he pays $80USD for a cuddle and to have his ears cleaned. Duffy explained:
Nothing is weirder than this. Profoundly, profoundly disturbing.
Personally I found his reaction disturbing. Yet if I was being honest, when I first embarked on my journey with the podcast ‘My date with a doll man in Japan’ and sex dolls were discussed in detail, I was disturbed. However when Duffy, in his own auto ethnographic experienced spent the entire time dismissing the service it led me down a path of furious thought.
His judgement made me realise that while we judge the commodification of such intimate things, their reasons for doing so are complex and in many instances, much more developed than we westerners think. By acknowledging the need for human interaction while also acknowledging their resistance of relationships, they have found a way to have both and to me, that is highly evolved.
Finally, I realised that by calling interviewee’s “subjects” in my primary blog, I established a sense of other-ness that took me hours of research and multiple epiphanies to break down. Dating in Japan is a very real, human and emotional topic that is raw, honest and socioeconomically charged.
What started with a molotov cocktail of intrigue, misunderstanding and a hint of judgement has ended with admiration and respect for the heightened sense of self awareness and self respect that is exemplified by the trends in the Japanese dating scene.
Autoethnography is the approach research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse a personal experience. The independent autoethnographic experience I chose to narrate and analyse was the Chinese TV show ‘If You are the One’. When creating my narrative for the TV show I chose to produce it in a layered account with hints of personal narrative. When producing my narrative in these forms it allows for there to be an autoethnographic experience as well as a relevant amount of research. I think that by allowing some kind of research on the topic is definitely does provide an emphasis on the nature of research and facts which I am definitely more comfortable with. Personal narratives were helpful in this case as it included both my stories and views as well as considering my academic past and personal experiences.
I believe that I learned quite a bit through using the autoethnographic narrative approach to write about the TV show ‘If you are the One’. I think that by writing my ideas and thoughts down in a narrative autoethnographic form I was able to sort through my thoughts and feeling of the show while watching. By doing this my narrative placed emphasis on what I was feeling/thinking/remembering while watching the show which was quite interesting when looking back. As previously stated I am a fan of TV dating shows and do watch them when I can in a way to relax. I found the TV show to be very different to what I would usually watch or what we are typically exposed to.
Most of my key thoughts about the show were discussed previously but the main ones that I would like to talk through where the translations of drama and comedy across cultures, the prominent game show theme as well as the brutal honestly the show held.
I found that my (little) cultural understanding of the origins of the show didn’t impact my viewing experience very much during my time watching. I found the show hard to watch while trying to also do something else but that could just be because of the translations of what they were saying were through subtitles. The process of reading the subtitles while watching the show was quite fun and I constantly found myself trying to turn up the sound so I could hear it better only to realise that it isn’t going to help to do that at all (just a bad habit).
I found that because this TV show was talked about in another BCM class I had the conversations that we had in that class run through my head which was quite good because it helped recap the whole idea of the show. I found that my whole understanding of the show and the cultural background of it was mostly formed by previous conversations from other tutors. However, with some light research on the show, I was also able to add to the information that I had already acquired beforehand. I found these kinds of interactions within the BCM class plus the research that was put in allowed me to explore my personal experiences and interactions as a way to achieve a better understanding of the culture and wider social understanding of the culture and wider social understanding of the context of the show.
I think that the whole show was an experience because of its unique style, both in the way that the game show like the room was presented but also in the way that the show’s narrative unfolded. Both the style and the way that the show was narrated gave it such a different feel which totally changed my encounter with dating TV shows.
The best way that I could describe or even compare the encounter would be the type of TV shows that we would be watching or be typically exposed to. The show felt out of this world and quite dramatic, which is something that I would say I was prepared for. It felt like a mash-up of all the good parts of Deal or No Deal, Family Feud and even the Bachelorette put together in a bright light, funny but quite serious way. The contestants were all in in unscripted situations and were improvising their way through the show in a way to make it as authentic and possible. I think that this brought out a lot of natural relationships between the contestant, the women, the presenter and even the audience. This type of interactivity between the people involved is something that I think we normally wouldn’t see in most of our own programs.
全球 is the Cantonese character for ‘global’
I engaged in a legitimate I Ching spiritual reading two weeks ago, in the confines of my bedroom – via app. It didn’t phase me at all. I’m what Mark Prensky would describe as a “digital native“; I circumnavigate the corners of the globe via technology, as effortlessly as I breathe, without conscious consideration.
It’s when I step back, take a deep breathe and consider the implications of my virtual journey, that the epiphanies ignite. The following is an excerpt from my post- an excerpt from my post I Ching for iPhone, featuring two epiphanies which ignited from my experience;
“One voice in my head whispered oh my God it actually worked, over and over again. A second is mindful that this traditional Chinese art has been translated from Mandarin, which has a completely different dialect and alphabet…
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Over the past decade, manga, along with other quintessential elements of Japanese pop culture, have had a souring increase in popularity within the western world. Reflecting back on my own upbringing, what once was considered a niche source of entertainment for very few children, is now being used for discussion on pervasive social issues, as well as within academic research. This overwhelming increase in recognition and application has led to a wider interest in Japanese culture through the apt appropriation of these cultural materials as a source of poignant socio-cultural information. Manga has always presented itself as something that I am curious about, but I lacked both the urgency and connection to the medium to pursue this curiosity further.
As discussed within my initial auto-ethnographical account, Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1, my interactions with manga were both encountered by initial chance, and self-directed curiosity on the issue.
What’s interesting to me is the way in which constructing my narrative, for the purpose of discussing my initial interaction with manga, prompted epiphanies regarding the topic. Through following Ellis et al’s suggested narrative methodology in order to ‘bring readers into the scene – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions’ provoked an awareness of occurrences and intricacies which heavily influenced my motivation on the topic.
My first epiphany was with regard to my own privilege. Although the concept of privilege, and its function within society, is highly systemic, it is also exceedingly relative to the country in question. Japanese culture operates not only culturally different to Australia, but also socially on a lot of issues. Due to these socio-cultural biases and my lack of interaction with manga, I came to view manga as a revolutionary tool before seeing it as an entertainment medium.
The history of Japan is completely separate from what we know as the West. Its evolution regarding distinctive philosophies, socio-cultural structures and religious authority, understandably built Japan into the country it is today. Although there is no law against homosexuality within Japan, there is little discussion of LGBT issues at all. Topics and representations of homosexuality are frequently kept silent, and gay rights, including marriage, receives very little political discussion. This poses itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences within Australia, and this knowledge has prompted me to view Japanese LGBTQ+ culture as repressed and systemically discriminated against.
As evidenced within my initial account, I opened the post with an account of a marriage equality rally in which I attended. This comparison was done with clear intention and motivation, so as to reveal the glaring differences in culture, and the experiences of the respective LGBTQ+ communities to the audience. Focusing on the phenomena of ‘patterns of cultural experiences’ discussed by Ellis et al, we can witness repeated stories and happenings of similar minority groups (i.e. acts of discrimination and erasure), albeit at different points in time. This awareness promotes curiosity into the different cultural structures that facilitated the difference in evolution of this social groups acceptance. But also, because of the dual presence of queer communities in both cultures, it raises the question of how LGBTQ+ communities navigate their domineering culture through the appropriation of untraditional modes of communication.
This epiphany highlighted, as well as indirectly structuring the way I would address the function of manga as not only a source of entertainment, but as a source of queer liberation in a culture that traditionally objects to the ‘unordinary’. This dual function is pertinent to its success as an escapist and revolutionary medium.
Manga provides audiences with a merging of visual and literary examples of Japanese culture, thus allowing manga the potential to be a rich and enduring source of cultural information (Dudley, 2012, p. 2). Emblematic of most cross-cultural texts however, manga’s ability to serve as not only a vehicle for Japanese culture, but also an important tool for social activism, depends on the way in which it is translated. Branching off Ellis’ comments regarding the ‘comparing of personal experiences with existing research’, it was evident that Japanese texts had the capability to operate in much the same way that Western socio-political inspired texts operate, an example of which being film. Traditionally, most manga sources are translated for the purposes of entertainment. Within the pages of manga, you are able to be anything that you like- a supernatural being, super hero or a person of another gender identity. The narrative structure of manga assisted in easing my struggle with reading this text, especially regarding the lack of prior engagement I had with it.
Within the imaginary world constructed by manga, concepts of gender and sexuality are often quite fluid, so it is no shock that many LGBTQ+ people are turning to manga for sympathetic representations of their lived experiences. Within my initial account, I referred to two manga- Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura No Hentai (2012). Although both address similar topics regarding trans* identity, their execution varying drastically. Wandering Son, due to my own perceptions regarding trans* identity, was read with intense contempt. I unfortunately could not finish the text, revealing the way in which my own cultural framework influenced the way in which I viewed the text. As opposed to viewing the story as the starting point for queer representation on an evolutionary timeline regarding the acceptance of these identities, I viewed it as highly repressive contrast to what I am accustomed to in my own cultural space. However, reading Bokura No Hentai directly after Wandering Son however heightened my affinity for the latter text, due to the fact that it aligned more consistently to the social codes that I am used to, as well as my own moral compass.
Bokura no Hentai, Mangafox, viewed 3 September 2017, http://m.mangafox.me/manga/bokura_no_hentai/
Dudley, J 2012, Manga as Cross-Cultural Literature: The effects of Translation on Cultural Perceptions, viewed 9 September 2017, https://scholarship.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/bitstream/handle/10066/14759/2012DudleyJ_thesis.pdf?sequence=1
Ellis, C 2011, Autoethnography: A Review, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, viewed 10 September 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 11 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues
Wandering Son, Fantagraphic, viewed 4 September 2017, http://www.fantagraphics.com/wanderingson1/