#DIGC330 #Autoethnography #stateofplay

The Slow Emergence of Epiphanies

gld rush

Admittedly as I started my investigation (see previous post “A Foodie’s Attempt at Tech”) I was not quite sure of which direction it would take. Though I knew that the bulk of the research would be personal. It’s through this that I have exhibited my first epiphanies, in varying forms. My first epiphany came in my research of how the cuisine was actually introduced into Australian life with how early it was actually accepted into Australian life. While I was aware that many of the Chinese immigrants who initially moved to Australia came because of the gold rush in the mid 1800’s, I had always presumed that they had primarily held labouring roles. However, it seems that many of the immigrants did not take up these roles and instead opened what were called “cookshops”, which sold traditional foods at cheap prices. These foods were often looked at positively by many of the workers as the high carb levels in the rice and noodle dishes gave them a cheap meal which would sustain them during the day (Stacker, J., Wong, D. and Nichol, B).

 

I was also surprised when researching, particularly through Barbara Nichol PhD, about how common Chinese food had actually become in Australia by the turn of the century, especially in gold rush regions like Victoria. It was around this time that I found my first example of merging styles (which I admittedly found surprisingly exciting) when Nichol’s noted in a 2012 paper “Chinese restaurant families recall that the American servicemen ate off the normal menu of Chinese dishes modified for the Western palate such as chop sueys and chow meins” when writing of the service men based in Australia in WWII. This, to me at least, signified the true start of what I consider to be the Australian suburban Chinese food that is ubiquitous with Australian suburbs today.

My second epiphany focusses around something which, realistically, should have been obvious to me from the start. That Chinese cuisine in Australia is a mixture of multiple of the major cuisines in China. However, this is extremely important. From interviews with multiple participants both from China and with a Chinese background, I found out that the Chinese are obsessed with food. The Chinese embraced the concept of a ‘foodie’ far before modern Westerners turned it into a hipster-central, blog-making, Instagram-obsessed idea. Though while this pride surrounding food is strong and is a defining part of Chinese culture, it could also affect how migrants eat when moving to countries like Australia.

When chatting to Pinki, an Indo-Chinese woman who immigrated to Australia in the mid-1960s, it created the realisation in me about how different Chinese cuisines could be and how someone could live their whole lives in China and never try a dish that is common place in Australia. She noted how when she was taken to a Chinese restaurant upon her arrival in Australia she recognised nothing from the menu and had to let her Anglo-Australian friends order for her as they were more accustomed to the menu. At the time nearly all of Chinese food was from the Canton (Cantonese) region in the north, whereas her family was from the south. This led me to question her as to whether she’s seen any food from her region appear in Australia. The fact that, eventually, she had seen various dishes from southern China appear on menus facilitated my epiphany on this topic. Would people from China even understand the construction of many Australian/Chinese menu’s?

Even when going to traditional Chinese restaurants the diner will often find a mix of dishes from Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangdong and various other Chinese regions. This is the amalgamation of the modern Chinese/Australian population sharing their dishes, allowing the more generic term of “Chinese food” to become far more common in restaurants than restaurants housing the dishes of specific regions. This is possibly because many Chinese citizens identify as Chinese as a nationality rather than focusing on specific regions, especially as more and more people are born on Australian shores. There is also the aspect of cuisines changing to appeal more Western tastes. When speaking of the differences they’ve found with traditional Chinese and the suburban Chinese found in Australia, with all people I talk to it comes down to how the ingredients are used. It was commonly mentioned how in many Chinese dishes meat was used as a garnish to the vegetables, often the opposite in Australian Chinese food. There is also significantly less focus on meats used in China, such as pork and duck, and more focus on beef and chicken (we even use a different type of chicken FYI).

So, with the slow increase in more Australian ingredients being used and the move away from more traditional flavours, could some of the more festive Chinese dishes, such as shark fin soup and sea cucumber, be under threat of becoming an outdated novelty. While none of my participants could speculate at the future of the cuisine they did note that their children often prefer Western style Chinese over traditional much of the time. Even after further investigation I may still not have a valid answer but hopefully I will be able to make a more accurate speculation.

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Autoethnography: An Understanding.

After reading ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘ I have realised the importance of NOT delving into your own personal story in relation to experiencing a culture WITHOUT analysing that experience. It is important to experience, observe and to question.
Autoethnography is a qualitative research methodology that combines autobiography and ethnography. Such a combination ultimately allows the researcher to uncover a large amount of information about a culture.
Epiphanies are experiences gained from immersing oneself into a culture and are powerful reflective tools used by autoethnographers:

In primary school I developed a love and appreciation for Asian culture.
When I was in year three I befriended a Vietnamese girl.
I distinctly remember enjoying her company because she introduced me to a completely different world, one that I had previously been unaware of.
In my micro world bubble, she brought in macro world elements of Vietnamese culture, including food, music, stationary and other miscellaneous things.
This friendship allowed me to garner a more personal experience with the culture itself and taught me to be understanding and sensitive towards it and its values.

I feel very enthusiastic about conducting an autoethnographic study on Asian culture. As I have grown older, I have found myself increasingly interested in the way people from this culture express themselves, be it through their eclectic and quirky Harajuku street fashion, their photography, art and/or music.

This video provides insight into why ‘decora girls’ dress this way. The interviewer engages in participant observation to gain a deeper understanding of life as a decora girl and why it is such a popular phenomenon. It is a symbol of rebellion against the mainstream values of ‘order and discipline’ that are engrained within Japanese culture. However, the interviewer ultimately communicates that this fashion is an integral part of identity; a subculture signifier.

Similarly, from my own observations, this cutesy, kawaii fashion reminded me of that seen in famous Japanese anime, including Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.

Welcome_to_Disney,_Mew_Mew_Power!

With my current understanding of autoethnography, I would like to work with a group to analyse various elements of Asian culture including food, tv shows, movies, fashion etc. This analysis could be strengthened through interviews and participant observations. The participant observations would be a great way to immerse myself into the culture and to quickly expand my knowledge of it. I feel that these experiences would be effectively documented through video and uploaded to YouTube.

I am conscious of doing this in a manner that is objective, respectful and non exploitative. However, I realise that ‘…subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research…’ are natural parts of the autoethnographic process.

 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, viewed 11th August 2017, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>.

270RPM doesn’t make the cut

“Autoethnography “-Understanding it as a research practise that focuses on self reflection, the way in which a researcher, through personal experiences, understands and makes meaning, this supports Ellis’s reading ‘to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience.’ Similar to Bronislaw Malinowski, his field journals ultimately experience and document the honesty in a public domain that others may otherwise not see. In DIGC330 week 2, I viewed a Documentary named State of Play’ set during the transition between Star Craft and Star Craft 2.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.06.24 pm

Here’s a documentation of my experience:

  • Set in South Korea- it opened with a camera pan of the city. All the way through this documentary the weather was grey and horrid. Not too much excitement happening weather wise for any of the contestants. Is this why they were so attached to playing StarCraft?
  • It was interesting to see that all the gamers were male. I hate to be one to talk about gender, but this documentary focused on portraying the gamers as very masculine figure within North Korean culture. The inclusion of fan girls added to this gender dynamic. (But really, why were they fan girling over esports? It just didn’t make sense)
  • A coherent universal story between parents and son in this documentary could be easily followed. The question of what are you doing with your life? Is this really what you want to be doing with your life? Were questions that are even asked in our families. It was nice to have a culture entirely different from our own, that somewhat became similar.
  • Nice to see what happens where a team isn’t always winning, the documentary became another thing entirely. Not just following the player’s success but also seeing them at their lowest when they weren’t winning, as well as letting people see the real him was a very important sense of victory. When the esports players compared this to football the concepts of winning, losing, rivalry and patience all became universally understood. Even though someone like me, who hasn’t seen or even heard of Esports, began to understand how important playing and training was for the StarCraft players. This made it a lot easier to follow.
  • Korean food was very apparent as well as portraying a strong sense of culture- which also made me extremely hungry.
  • As discussed in my live tweeting during watching the documentary. I noted that I was interested in the way gamers brains worked differently to ours, its like they use a completely different part of their brain. For instance, 270 RPM was slow in the competition!!! That’s physically impossible for me to even comprehend.
  • The way generations respond to technology based on their culture was also worth exploring more in-depth. A lot of the more traditional/reserved generations, believed gaming is a waste of time and just didn’t understand the significance in participating in Esports. Whereas for the gamers it was their life and their dream.