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.
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>
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/>
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>
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.