culture

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.

 

Advertisements

The Humble Dumpling

Our group project started pretty innocently, we decided to study dumplings for the sole purpose of eating as an assignment and promptly booked ourselves a table at Ziggy’s House of Noms to start researching. All it took was a simple menu item that would change the course of our project forever… the Cheeseburger McDumpling.

22447569_1912627495420611_1907349966_n.jpg

Most people probably haven’t thought much about the origin and traditions of the humble dumpling, we certainly hadn’t. A lot of different cuisines boast a version of the dumpling, filling packaged within pastry. From Spanish empanadas, Italian tortellini, Polish pierogies and Swedish kroppkakor, they all resemble the same idea as Asian dumplings.

Whilst there are a few theories on the creation of Jiaozi (traditional Chinese dumplings)  the most popular one puts the first dumplings way back in AD 25-220 during the Han dynasty, where they were first made by Zhang Zhongjing, a practitioner of medicine. His dumplings were referred to as ‘tender ears’, because of the shape and the warm soup and herbs in the dumplings were thought to help treat frostbitten ears of the poor during winter.

Dumplings are now associated with prosperity, traditionally eaten around Chinese New Year, sometimes a coin will be put in a dumpling for a lucky individual to find. They are a dish dumplings served year round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner with many people adapting the recipe to create a modern version.

ziggy

We initially went to the Wollongong dumpling and tea house, Ziggy’s House of Nomms. We chose a variety of things off the menu, including the Cheeseburger McDumpling. As soon as we saw it we were curious, laughing at the bizarre concept of a cheeseburger dumpling. We weren’t sure what to expect. The cheeseburger dumplings were a pleasant surprise, they tasted great, just like a cheeseburger. The flavours definitely didn’t resemble what we thought of as Asian dumplings though, especially considering the side of tomato sauce and mustard in place of the traditional soy sauce. We’d never experienced fusion dumplings before and as a result began thinking about how something as traditional as a dumpling had been completely westernized and turned into something that we are completely familiar with: the cheeseburger. Was this Western-tasting dumpling still Asian? Thus began our quest of creating very inauthentic dumplings.

Our next step was to make our own dumplings. One recipe ran more true to the traditional dumplings, made with pork and cabbage. For our fusion dumplings we walked down the supermarket aisles and picked out the first things we wanted to turn into a dumpling.

Watch our shopping, cooking and eating experience below:

Dumpling wrappers are quite versatile, they have a flavour however they accommodate not only sweet and savoury but also flavours from different cuisines. We were pleasantly surprised by how all flavours were enabled by the dumpling wrapper, it worked as a medium to accommodate the consumption of small amounts of a specific dish. We found that they are a very practical food medium as it is easy to manage portion size (in theory) and store for later consumption. Dumpling wrappers are essentially made of flour and water rolled flat into a disc that can be manipulated to hold small portions of another food. This makes it extremely versatile to work with and can be altered to suit the tastes of an individual. Dumplings are so dispersed across Asia but vary quite significantly from one town to the next, expressing the local culture of each community. In this way the dumpling can be seen as a communication technology for expressing a local culture. “Food tells us something about a culture’s approach to life. In the end, we can say that food functions symbolically as a communicative practice by which we create, manage and share meanings with others. Understanding culture, habits, rituals and tradition can be explored through food and the way others perceive it.” (Stajcic, 2013)

“Understanding a culture through food is an interesting process because once a person starts asking these questions, such as how something is made, what ingredients are in it, or why it is called a certain way, the answers obtained go beyond culinary learning. (Stajcic, 2013) We aimed to better explore a culture through it’s food; specifically the dumpling. The further we explored dumplings, something we’d only ever considered a delicious stuffed pastry, the more we learnt about the culture and tradition behind the dish. The process of buying, making, cooking and eating dumplings caused us to question how culture is shared through food. Subsequently, we were interested in the history of the dumpling, why they’re eaten and the way in which the fusion of traditional Chinese dumplings with Western food is evolving. In this sense, dumplings become a medium representative of aspects of local Chinese culture.

https://giphy.com/embed/2nrr1SrkVEdpK

via GIPHY

Our process of creating dumplings was inauthentic in the sense that we had little previous knowledge of how to make dumplings. The way we folded, cooked and experimented with fillings were no doubt different from the traditional sense. But it is hard to determine where to draw the line with traditional cooking, is it food, the recipe, the methods used to prepare the meal or even the cultural background of the individual. We picked a traditional recipe to cook however our cooking utensils were very much from our own culture, which could lessen the authenticity of the traditional meal. It has been suggested that digital culture, pop culture and tourism have a major effect on the social construction of cultural authenticity since the erosion of of traditional values (Kwon, 2012). Public awareness of culture is constantly reconstructed through interaction between popular culture and tourism, and it can be considered to be the substance of cultural authenticity in postmodern era (Kwon, 2012). The erosion of traditional values suggests that tradition or in this case traditional cuisine can no longer be invented, with the world so interconnected it is impossible to build on tradition and as a result fusion food is created. “Globalization has not necessarily homogenized all cultural differences nor erased the salience of cultural labels. Quite the contrary; it grows the franchise. In the global economy of consumption, the brand equity of sushi as Japanese cultural property adds to the prestige of both the country and the cuisine. Certainly, the presentation and ingredients or forms of sushi vary from country to country, but it is still seen as something very distinctive.” (Stajcic, 2013)

With the Cheeseburger McDumpling from Ziggy’s House of Nomms and the hybrids we created (Mac’n’Cheese’, Mi Goreng, Kit Kat, Wagon Wheel) there is the question of authenticity and appropriation of a dish that is heavily embedded in tradition. However, just because a dish evolves and is found in one form or another in restaurants across the globe does not mean it has lost its status as authentic Chinese cultural property. The cultural meaning of dumplings remain the same even if the medium is slightly different.

Through our study we have found that dumplings are a food platform, accommodating local expression whether traditional or otherwise. They are distinctively Asian, regardless of how the filling is changed, people will still associate the dish with Asia. The concept of cultural authenticity is constantly being re-defined by pop culture and through the tourism industry, with globalization it has become impossible to invent traditional cuisine leading to a fusion of different cultural dishes. 

By Jarrah Bowley and Meg Ensor

Prezi

 

References

How Chinese Food Got Hip in America. (2016). [Blog] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/chinese-food-hip-america/472983/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Hsu, E. (2016). Chef, Author Eddie Huang Tackles Cultural Appropriation of Food at Athenaeum. [Blog] The Student Life. Available at: http://tsl.news/news/5952/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Kwon, H. (2012). A Study of the Interaction between Tourism and Popular Culture in the Construction of Cultural Authenticity. The Tourism Studies, 24(1).

Sims, R. (2009). Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, [online] 17(3), pp.321-336. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669580802359293?src=recsys [Accessed 8 Oct. 2017].

Stajcic, N. (2013). Understanding Culture: Food as a Means of Communication. Hemispheres, 28.

Zhang, J. (2014). Food as a Medium. [Blog] The Palate. Available at: https://uchicagopalate.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/food-as-a-medium/ [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

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!

download

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.

These Epiphanies Are Making Me Hungry

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.53.07 am.png

Nowadays it’s hard to turn on a television without seeing food – whether it is cooking programs or lifestyle food commercials. Well, from what has originated in South Korea, the big food fad is watching strangers eating. The country is glued to live streams of other Koreans binge eating, to the extent that these eating individuals have now become nationwide micro-celebrities.

In my previous blog post I narrated my experience of diving into the highly popularised South Korean food trend of Mukbang, which recounted my consumption of over 60 minutes of consumption. This time I will be using the autoethnographic methodology to analyse my narrated experience – highlighting my key ‘EPIPHANIES’ and also the assumptions, histories and  prejudices that I am bringing to the investigation. This enables reflection, in order to develop my insights into another culture.

Autobiographers write about “epiphanies”—remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life” (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989)

So this is what I have done, unpacked the significance of my self proclaimed epiphanies to unveil more than just opinion and observations. (more…)

South Korean Horror: An Autoethnographic Perspective (Part 2)

In the first part of my autoethnographic research series into South Korean horror, I described my experience of watching the South Korean psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. This post, the second part of the series, will provide some background information on the text and will be analysing my experience of watching the film.

a-tale-of-two-sisters

When conducting some background research into the film, after watching it, I discovered that the film is loose interpretation of a well-known Korean folktale called “Janghwa Hongryeon jeon” (The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon). In fact, there were already five adaptations of the tale prior to the 2003 version, and that’s excluding the 2009 Hollywood remake “The Uninvited”.

The folk-tale originates from the Joseon-era of Korean history and tells the story of two girls Janghwa and Hongryeon who, after being abused by their wicked step-mother, both perish at the hands of the step-mother and her eldest son. The sisters, as ghostly apparitions, then go on to kill every new mayor of the town, in the hope that someone would eventually discover their step-mother’s true nature. Eventually, thanks to one brave mayor, the sisters’ get their wish and the step-mother and her son are executed. As a result, this puts the sisters’ souls to rest and ends the haunting. The tale is much more complex, of course, but this is the general jist. With this in mind, I wonder how my experience of watching the film would changed, had I known about its source material prior to watching it. 

The aspect that stands out most to me in both the folk-tale and the film, but particularly in the film, is the representation of family. The film is essentially a horror film about domestic life and represents possible fears of a non-nuclear family.  The role that the father plays, in the film, is particularly interesting as he appears to completely passive and non-fussed about the whole situation and seems to be almost isolated from the rest of the family. This interestingly plays against the male-centric Confucian system, where fathers are generally seen as the head of the household and should be respected by every family member. Yet, in the film, it always seems like the step-mother is undermining his authority and that he has very little control over anything.

This experience in autoethnographic research has been much more enlightening than I had anticipated and has proved to be a good stepping stone for my major individual research, which will see me explore something that’s entirely unfamiliar to me: anime. I hope you have enjoyed these last two posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Korean Food Phenomenon // MUKBANG

mukbang

I love food as much as the next person and growing up in as a Vietnamese-Australian I was brought up with quite a wide scope in terms of food culture –  such as diverse flavours, etiquette and perhaps the ability to use chopsticks more competently than a fork.

As I entered the subject of Digital Asia I slowly began to recognise on social media the growing rate and popularity of a different kind videos online. These videos were depicting people, from what I was seeing, mainly petite females, eating large quantities of food whilst talking to a camera and ultimately their internet audiences simultaneously. This triggered my curiosity and put me in a state of awe as I began to look into it’s country of origin, South Korea and dig a little deeper into the industry phenomenon of ‘Mukbang‘.

Mukbang, or 먹방, is an abbreviation and addition of two words:  먹다 (sound: “Muk-Dah” / meaning: to eat) + 방송 (sound “Bang-Song” / meaning: (TV) broadcast).

(more…)

The Rough Guide To ‘The Rough Guide To Indian Classical Music’

It all started at work on Friday night. The floor was dead, which fortunately gave me the freedom to escape the customer service desk and find the time and opportunity to quiz and discuss with my manager, N, on what or whom he would consider being seminal classical Indian pieces and performers and where I could find hear them. N was very enthusiastic about my endeavour to explore the sonic history of India and mentioned a few pieces and wrote a list of performers he considered important on a piece of scrap cardboard, which I would later lose in a brain explosion; however he made it clear that it would be difficult to find examples of these pieces and artists as they were more than likely never recorded to tape let alone converted digitally, explaining that he enjoys his subscription to the World Music Network as they aggregate a variety of Indian music, but he was unsure if I would be able to find classical Indian music through the service.

It was 10:30 pm on Friday night when I sat down to explore and hopefully begin my adventure into classical Indian music, open to the fact that I may not find exactly what I was hoping to experience but would find a piece of Indian music I’d never imagined existing. I began by Googling the World Music Network, and explored their website, finding their Rough Guides to world music. I found it interesting that there were separate classifications of Indian and Bollywood music. Finding guides to Psychedelic India and Psychedelic Bollywood peaked my curiosity, however, I managed to hunt down a title called The Rough Guide To Indian Classical MusicBeing a student I tossed up the idea of signing up for the paid subscription service or purchasing the album outright, eventually deciding to do neither of those two things and attempt to find the album on Spotify. Thankfully for my back pocket, the collection of songs was there.

Before I listened to the album, I took my time taking in the cover art. Depicting an elder Indian man wearing a red religious head scarf, playing what I assume is a flute in a what looks like a temple. The guide features nine songs, lasting a duration of 74 minutes; but includes a bonus ‘disk’ six track album by Debashish Bhattacharya which if included as part of the collection doubles the duration of the album. The last decision I had to make, given it was now 11 pm was whether I could listen to the full album or simply the guide then and there, weighing up the pros and cons I decided that I should listen to just the guide as the team who designed the sequence of the guide and the inclusion of the bonus ‘disk’ intended for them to be separate entities before streaming services entered the mainstream and altered the way people experience recorded music.

The guide opens with Annapoorne an instrumental track which I found sounded familiar yet jarring like folk music exploring crazy temporal elements and utilising violin, hand drums, bells and what I think is those drums that have a beater on a string attached which make noise when shaken. Track two represented the most familiar musician on the compilation, Ravi Shankar, performing Devgiri Bilawal Dhun, a track I’m confident I have unconsciously encountered in Hollywood film soundtracks, I definitely appreciated this track a lot more than the first, while it is another instrumental track it features use of hand drums and sitar. The track sounds like acoustic psychedelia composed using an unorthodox scale much higher than what I am normally comfortable with but ultimately it is a very enjoyable listen. The next cab off the rank was a live performance of the El Taal by Allah Rakha & Zakir Hussain. This is the first Indian classical piece I have consumed which features a vocal of sorts, while it is difficult to describe the vocal seems to be used as more as a rhythmic element rather than a melody or narrative driver; however, I could be misinterpreting this as I am not familiar with Hindi or the genre of Indian classical. The melody seems to be created through a flute or a stringed instrument I am unfamiliar with, the melody is looped throughout the track while the rhythms created using drums and the human voice intertwine, and drive the track toward a crescendo to finish. El Taal is an interesting track which leaves me looking forward to researching instrumentation and Sadhathava Pada is the fourth track on the guide, and is the first track to recongnisably incorporate human voice as more than just a rhythmic element and allow it to act as a narrative device and lead the melody played on violin. Ahir Bhairav represents the biggest surprise as what I consider to be traditional instrumentation is intertwined with piano passages I did not expect to hear in this sonic adventure. Thumri Bhairavin and Dhun Punjabi Ang are similar in nature to track two, heavily centred upon sitar use but sound more soulful than psychedelic. The closing track to the guide, Raga Chhaya Nat, is the longest song on the album, it features an English narration as well as all other instrumental elements and rhythmic devices heard throughout the guide. It is an incredibly nice way to summarise my first experience of Indian classical music.

 

I’ve thouroughly enjoyed ‘The Rough Guide to Indian Classical Music, and will definitely seek out more and dive deeper into the genre. I am in love with the psychedelic elements present in what I have heard so far. I would like to further understand the difference between Indian and Bollywood music. I look forward to finding out more about the instrumentation and speaking to N about my experience and begging him to give me another list I should check out.

 

 

 

Autoethnography

As a university student, we are often told that in order to obtain quality qualitative or quantitive data, we must remain externally observant and completely uninvolved with the subject. Autoethnography challenges this concept.

“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 2010

As a process it is a method that employs both autobiography and ethnography. As an autobiographical practice, the method identifies epiphanies as points of understanding. As an ethnographic practice, the method studies cultural practices. Together, the findings portray a personal and emotive analysis. The product means the work is presented in a story like manner. This narrative structure does focus on communicating the truth. There are characters, scenes, events and plot progressions. The research presented aims to captivate the audience and share personal and interpersonal experiences.

Autoethnography’s use of such immersive methods has lead to academic debates. Potential criticism argue that it is not possible to understand a situation when one is a part of the setting, one is personally invested and therefore personal motives will interfere with research. Furthermore, there is a moral debate for relational ethics, specifically in regards to ensuring there is a healthy dynamic between all parties involved and matters of subject confidentiality.

Autoethnography argues that this personal expereince is exactly what enhances the research method. It is only through self reflection, self awareness and emersion into a setting that one can truly empathise, and in turn understand a subject. No two people will view or remember an experience, even a shared experience, in the same manner. The feelings and backgrounds of a subject are fundamental to understanding data. In the same way, the feelings and backgrounds of the researcher are just as influential. Autoethnography acknowledges this, but embraces that the individuals socio-cultural behaviours within a society shape perceptions, and reveal the essence of a subject – the researcher will only know this when close to or a part of the same subject.

Personally I value autoethnography for certain kinds of research, specifically when conducting qualitative cultural research. Sometimes being human means that sharing an experience is the only way to communicate.

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

Autoethnography

Autoethnography is undeniably a big word. Which is why initially I was pretty intimidated by it. However, breaking it down with the help of the 2011 text ‘Autoethnography: an overview’ by Carolyn Ellis, Tony Adams & Arthur Bochner and class discussions essentially helped me achieve a good understanding of the term. Simply put, autoethnography is where an individual uses their own personal experiences in order to comprehend cultural understandings.

After establishing this understanding I then applied the term to my own life and realised something pretty extraordinary. Without even knowing it I have been an active autoethnographer for the three years I have download-1.jpgbeen at University. By starting my personal WordPress blog I have been using my own experiences to understand other cultures. However, the biggest struggle I have found with autoethnography is achieving an equal balance between self-perspective and research or in other words the equal balance between artful and scientific. This balance comes from within the word itself. Autoethonography derives from two separate words- autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography can make a text artful by using various authorial points of view. Ethnography brings scientific descriptions into a text and can rely on other people’s research and experiences.
Personally, I have always preferred relying on research to back my argument. But what I have recently come to understand is that you need your own experiences in order to generate epiphanies. From these we can then apply research and methodology to analyse these experiences.

According to Ellis’ text “Autoethnographers must not only use their methodological tools and research literature to analyze experience, but also must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies; they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders. To accomplish this might require comparing and contrasting personal experience against existing research.” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, p.g. 2)

I hope to try and apply this understanding in my future research and attempt to achieve this balance.

Reference:

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

Understanding my world through Autoethnography

The idea of Autoethnography is so foreign to me. So far in my academic career I’ve transformed from the high school system “1st person is evil”, to welcoming how your cultural perceptions has shaped how you understand a situation. Ellis et al. defines Autoethnography as:

“An approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”

Therefore, this incorporates how a person understands a situation or event due to how their personal experiences have shaped their way of thinking. To be an autoethnographer, you must first explain your cultural upbringing to your readers/audience and then critically analyse how this has formed your understanding.

If you read my last blog, I attempted a little autoethnography, by critically analysing how I took meaning from watching Godzilla based on my cultural upbringing. It was a different approach to writing that I haven’t noticed myself using up to this point in my academic career. Yet, it makes sense to use this form of research and writing, because it can be used as a tool for further understanding of yourself and those around you.

DSCN6177

Photo I took of the beach (Otres Beach, Cambodia)

I noticed myself doing this in my recent travels to Cambodia. I was sitting on a beach, and women were walking up and down the beach selling foot rubs, manicures and pedicures to tourists. I was approached by one woman who was driven to make me buy something from her. I noticed the difference between the selling techniques used by advertising company’s in Australia and her persuasion techniques. She rubbed her hand on my legs and said “Oh! So hairy! You need threading”. I realised this must be how they try to persuade tourists to pay for them for a beauty service. Thinking back to how someone would sell me something in Australia compared to how things are sold in Cambodia is very different. This event made me interested in how the media sold products to Cambodians, and noticed a lot of downgrading their own beauty in order to sell their products. Most of the models on the packaging were white, or looked very similar to white people. This sets the standard of “beauty” in Cambodia and tells people that they aren’t beautiful unless they look white.

I think to how the media sells me products, and I notice a lot of the similar sort of advertising techniques. Therefore, I am interested in researching further into how the Asian advertising market sells its products as part of an autoethnographic project.

 

 

References:

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