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The Art of Autoethnography: Part IV

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Below is a table detailing the assumptions I made of the assumptions I had after my first autoethnographic encounter and what was learnt through further literature research. While not all my assumptions were completely wrong I definitely still had a lot to learn.

What I am also finding is that the more involved I become in this autoethnographic study, the more interested I become in the cultural significance and background of the Bollywood film industry. this has unintentionally caused some of my research to go off in a tangent to some extent, relating less to language acquisition and more to the cultural language study of the Bollywood genre. I am finding that I either need to shift to topic of my auto ethnographic study or attempt to refocus.

Assumptions Reflection
The assumption that was made was in relation to the parameters od the autoethnographic research. Initially I set out that I would use multiple media texts in my methodology to obtain personal experience. I believe that this assumption was a little presumptuous. Even though I knew it would be difficult to learn some aspects of the language I did not realize how difficult it would be. I can to the realisation that little would be gain from this experience if I was to continue in the same fashion viewing multiple types of texts to acquire even the most basic level of language acquisition when starting from scratch. In reflection I believe that the greatest personal experience will come from focusing on one individual text and to absorb this text on a number of occasions and then focus my research around this. A number of factors play a part in the change of the parameters of my methodology. The first is the time period over which this research was conducted and the hours that could be dedicated to it. The most important factor was though the lack of a foundation of understanding of the Hindu language. Due to this I have now watched the same Bollywood film three times and each time I find myself picking up on some new words even if only for a moment and reaffirming the ones I have previously picked up. I also become more aware of different aspects of other communication aspects present in the film.
In my first notes I stated that the Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was produced using the Hindi language and that because it is a contemporary media text it would provide a context for the language that included slang and colloquial language. ‘Bollywood productions are today acknowledged as the generator of and vehicle for contemporary popular culture in India.’ (Goethe Institute, 2016). My assumption while correct was also limited and basic. The language used in Bollywood films is much complex then simply Hindi. English was used in the film not only when on location in an English speaking country but also the occasional modern words which are the same in both English and Hindi, for example the word internet. According to the Goethe Institute (2016) The language used in Bollywood films has a distinctive supra-regional integrative quality. ‘The code switches between sociolects, standard languages and distinct Persian and distinct Persian or Sanscrit features, jargons with regional variants right through to other Indian national languages such as Panjabi, Marathi, Gurarati and not least English’ This is throughout films in the Bollywood genre.
While this assumption is not related to language acquisition I thought it was important to note that when I first watched this Bollywood film something about the premise of this music seemed strange and stupid to me. Upon critical analysis of this observation I was able to gain a better understanding of why they premise of this musical seemed so foreign to me. I am used to watching musicals that are either produced on Broadway or in Hollywood. Musicals made in Hollywood and on Broadway tend to focus around entertainers because they are focused on making the musical aspect of the story seem as realistic as possible. Though according to research ‘Bollywood is not encumbered with adherence to realism’ (The Bollywood Ticket, 2016). This knowledge to make a better understanding as to why this this musical seemed so strange to me. Unconsciously I felt disconnected from the storyline because it lacked that realism that I am used to in musicals.
Never did I have the assumption that I would be able to gain a complete understanding of the Hindi language simply through studying media text produced in this language. Though I did assume that when were hear of people acquiring a language through media that it is all they have used. It is evident through the research conducted that while media texts provide a great tool in the acquisition of a language, it is simply a part of the process and other learning is needed this can take place through classes in a more formal context, though in a less formal one it could simply be researching on the internet. Aiping et. al. (2016) in the article Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading, states that ‘second language incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading usually involves the process of through reading usually involves the process of learners noticing an unknown word, searching for its meaning, and elaborating upon the form meaning connection’. Learning a language through listening in this case is quite similar, it is all part of a process and in most cases further research is conducted to obtain a complete understanding of the language.

 

Resource List

Aiping, Z, Ying, G, Biales, C, & Olszewski, A 2016, ‘Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading’, Reading In A Foreign Language, 28, 2, pp. 224-245, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2016.

Goethe Institute (2016). Multilingualism – Languages Without Borders – Projects – Goethe-Institut. [online] Available at: http://www.goethe.de/ges/spa/prj/sog/ver/en5356222.htm [Accessed 12 Oct. 2016].

Thebollywoodticket.com. (2016). Introduction to Bollywood – The Bollywood Ticket. [online] Available at: http://www.thebollywoodticket.com/bollywood/beginner.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2016].

The Art of Autoethnography: Part III

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Studying languages comes easily for some and is a curse for others. I am one of the latter. I have friends that can speak multiple languages fluently and yet I can’t seem to get any further than my native tongue. I am somebody who has attempted to study several languages and not succeeded, even with the help of classes, tutors and so on. Because of this I find it fascinating that people could simply use a TV Show or a game to learn a foreign language. Whether is be stories of migrant learning a language through a TV Show or kids picking up a language through their favourite card game, the evidence for the success of the use of media as a tool for language acquisition is overwhelming.

These observations and stories of language acquisition success have brought me to form a topic for autoethnographic study in this area. Looking language acquisition through Asian language media texts. The answers that I am seeking to discover are not just simply can I learn any aspects of the language but also what can I learn about the culture of that language in the process.

Autoethnography is an approach to research that combines methodological tools and literature with personal experience to obtain a greater understanding of culture. (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)

To complete the methodology in this autoethnographic study I will combine literature research relating to the study of languages and testimonials/news stories regarding people who have learnt languages using media texts. This will be combined with the personal experience of using Asian language media texts in order to learn aspects and vocabulary of various Asian languages.

When looking online the extent of language learning resources and tips for learning languages can be overwhelming. To obtain some ideas about the types of media texts to use for this research I chose to collate some of the suggestions from a simple google search and the following table summarises what I found.

Brave Learning –       Listen to foreign language radio stations

–       Foreign language poems

–       Podcasts

–       Surf the web in a different language

–       Foreign language TV channels

–       Read a foreign language book

–       Write a foreign language blog post

–       Play games in a different language

Fluent U –       Browse reddit (thematically-orientated to one specific region)

–       Use region specific social media

–       Play online video games (use Twitch, language specific)

–       Date in the language (try tinder etc.)

Pick the Brain –       Television (Taiwanese dramas: Sugoideas.com, Korean, Japanese, Chinese Mandarin: Dramafever.com, Japanese anime: Crunchyroll.com)

–       Foreign film movies and trailers

–       Listening to music in your target language

Franglish –       Listen to music in your chosen language

–       Read foreign language comic books

This research gave me some great ideas for a starting point. I chose to not focus on the choice of language as a driving factor for choosing the texts but to simply find texts which interest me not matter the language which the text was done in. this research will not in no means result in me being fluent in a language but I hoped what I would gain from this research is some vocabulary in a language be it only a couple of words and no more. But what I also hope to gain from this experience is a better understanding of language in the context of these various texts.

What I needed to be careful of was as stated by Anderson (2006) not to allow this research to devolve into self-absorption and that would result in the loss of its sociological promise.

Autoethnography allows for creativity in regards to its presentation, going beyond traditional methods of writing. While my research will be writing it will take the shape of journal entries documenting my progress and research through blog posts on my personal blog these posts will simply provide a home for the Snapchat videos documenting my personal experiences throughout this autoethnographic study and allow me to expand and reflect upon my findings.

To start off this autoethnographic research I will include a brief account of my first autoethnographic encounter, learning a language through a Bollywood film. I choose a Bollywood film for three reasons.

  1. It was easy to obtain
  2. I have watched Bollywood movies before and quite enjoy them
  3. And finally, as this was the first emersion into this research I thought I would ease myself in with the language through something that I was familiar with.

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My progress of language acquisition and the Snapchat videos detailing my personal experience will have to wait till my next post but a few things that I did note are;

  • Subtitles don’t always make sense
  • The pause and rewind button got a work out.
  • It was a lot easier to keep up with the dialogue then the songs due to the pace.
  • Attempting to learn aspects of the language and document it at the same time meant that I did not become involved in the storyline of the text at all and watching the movie took twice as long therefore I didn’t finish it because Bollywood movies are already two hours long.
  • The key words I found myself picking up are the ones which sparked my interest, random words which either stood out or were part of the sentences which had unusual sounding subtitles.
  • This approach to learning a language may help with understanding slang or colloquial phrases in a foreign language but it still only provides you with snippets of the language as a whole
  • It does not at all permit the acquisition of written language.

 

Reference List

Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. (2013). [film] Johar, K. & Johar, H.

 

King Of Chair

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Abbey, John, Kate & Naomi autoethnographic investigation of the Japanese gameshow ‘King Of Chair’


As evident by a sheer number of articles and videos on the Internet, Westernised countries have interpreted Japanese game shows as “crazy” and “weird”. This is commonly due to the audience recognising the producer forcing the contestants to do strange things for the benefit of the audience. Before first-hand participating in watching a Japanese game show many of us would have agreed that this stereotype is an accurate depiction of Japanese culture.

Generally speaking Westernised game shows consist of contestants testing their knowledge, skill and ability with rewards being prizes of currency and various objects, and whilst this is true in Japanese game shows, they often add a comedic element to the shows, whilst still focusing on the ability of the contestants as they undertake various tasks that are usually painful or painfully funny for the audience.

Game shows were first broadcasted in Japan in the 1950s before becoming well-known as strange, off-the-wall, and at times a bit brutal, but always hilarious and entertaining.”

‘King of Chairs’ was first broadcasted in July 2010 on the TBS network. Its motif is a twist on the classical children’s game, musical chairs. In each episode, ten comedians/idols are released into a large environment where 1000 chairs are scattered and hidden throughout with the King of Chair logo. Out of these, there is only 3 winning chairs, with dozens of traps and surprises that are difficult to avoid as the contestants can only find out if the chair is a winner by sitting on it for 3 seconds. If the sensor on the chair sets off a winning bell, they win one of three spots in the episode’s finale.

The similarities of the Australian children’s game ‘musical chairs’ are present as players compete over chairs. However, it differentiates itself from this as it commonly takes place at parities where players compete for a decreasing number of chairs, with losers in successive rounds being those unable to find a chair to sit on when the music stops.

From what can only be described as a strange remake of the children’s game ‘musical chairs’, King of Chair seemed like a good place to start our groups authethnographical research of a Japanese game show. We started off by watching the video together and recording our initial reactions through a range of social media platforms. With the typical stereotype of Japanese game shows being strange and weird and consisting of the contestants doing odd things for the audiences benefits, we didn’t know what to expect! Yet to our surprise, this show was rather tame, it was only weird because none of us fully understood what was going on.

We were able to pick up the main theme of the show, several people competing for winning chairs and having strange and scary things happening to them as a result of sitting on an incorrect chair. The theme of the show was an easy one and little interpretation was needed to understand what was going on, further making it a good choice for us to watch. This has helped to open our view and perceptions into asian game show culture and prove that not all games are gross, weird and strange.

At the beginning of ‘King of Chairs’ we noticed the girl wearing a sailor costume and automatically began comparing it to a previous cultural experience of encountering Japanese anime at a young age stating, “Sailor Moon – is that you?” and “I like the dress ups. One is wearing rafting gear and the other is Sailor Moon”. However, when further researching into this contestants of the game all appear in uniform. The men are required to wear a school-like uniform or blazer and the women are required to wear sailor-like attire of a blazer, with a helmet. When we look at this from the perspective of Australian culture, we are able to recognise that many game shows do not have a dress code and contestant tend to dress more for comfort.

The main thing that really stood out to us through this collaborative autoethnographic investigation was the large part language plays in one’s comprehension of what is going on in one’s environment. Without dubs or subs, it was really tricky to get the gist of exactly what was going on. It took the entire 45 minute episode for the group to really get a grasp on what exactly it was we were watching, which was really interesting. I We also thought that the use of dubs and subs could further change the way we interpret the show, in a negative way. These translations are never quite perfect, so having this added into the show, would have changed our experience immensely.

For example after watching the show, we took to Reddit and found out what people were saying around the King of Chair. We found out that the participants in the show were actually celebrities in Japan, comedians in , models, actorJapans etc.. So because we missed all of what the participants were actually saying I am sure we all missed a large portion of the humour behind the show. The trap chairs were funny for us to watch visually, however we really missed out on a significant element to the show due to not knowing Japanese.

Another general comment in regards to the autoethnographic process, is that I noticed how critical we  was were when we are looking at something with fresh eyes. Perhaps the autoethnographic process just makes you notice something that is always happening naturally, but we did  I am automatically comparing it to something else, like an experience I have already had within the context of my culture.  Perhaps that was the autoethnographic process shining through??

I was having a good experience on a gameshow called “The King of Chair”. Other group mates were having different experiences because of subs or dubs. The video does not have any English subs which is challenging for them, and also provides a different environment within a language barrier. I personally study Japanese now so I partly understand the structure and the flow of the game, which I have a different experience from the gameshow.

To me, the rules of the game is quite tricky and different from the original game. Those contestants, who are mixed with comedians, idols, actors/actresses, and even athletes, are chasing for what they called “real chair” to win the game out of 1000 chairs. It just blown my mind that how creative Japanese people are and how they make the show become intense and exciting by using different items or shenanigans to trick players, and using pop-out Japanese wording to show the excitement or anger when players do not find the real chair.

Somehow, I found some of the players were overreacting. I don’t know if they did that purposely or for humour, when they fell down from a fake chair, they just kept yelled “Itai,itai, itai”, which means it hurts. The facial expression of different players are different. Seems like comedians were trying to be “Funny”, even they know the chair is shenanigan, they just sit down and get tricked. The characters of Japanese people are quite obvious, such idols need to be like an “idol”, pretty, lovely image, while actor and actress try to gain more fame by being brave in the show. The industry of tv show in Japan seems to be “Funny or Brave to win”.

Person for Rent Industry Autoethnographic Response

Myself, Charmaine, Jack and Ash investigated the industry of renting people to be platonic friends to play the roles of family members, wedding guests or just someone to hang out with on a Saturday. The industry is very large in Japan and China as a result of social pressures for girls especially to have a boyfriend in Asian culture and saving face issues. People can earn a lot of money renting out their friendship services and the idea has reached the US and Australia with many websites available for people to employ people to be their friend.Here is a link to our digital artifact with all of the info and insights into this awesome industry.

https://prezi.com/embed/736vvudrxbcl/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&landing_data=bHVZZmNaNDBIWnNjdEVENDRhZDFNZGNIUE43MHdLNWpsdFJLb2ZHanI5bHpDamN0SmhSbmxZRThPVTZuU3g5cHV3PT0&landing_sign=zdcWwgzQ845O4IDTQrilAW6n0tvlAAsV_aT95UEplao

 

 

Viewing myself on an Asian dating show

In my previous post, I proposed my individual project of examining Asian culture through dating shows and recorded my initial thoughts and assumptions of these shows, specifically, If You Are The One, a Chinese dating show where one man attempts to impress 24 women. To delve deeper into the understanding of this culture, I’m now attempting to reflect upon, analyse and interpret this experience within its broader sociocultural context using an autoethnographic research approach.

Chang observes that the uniqueness of autoethnography comes from the way it “transcends mere narration of self to engage in cultural analysis and interpretation”, setting it apart from things such as memoirs and autobiography. It is not about focusing on just self, but finding understanding of others through understanding your own assumptions and beliefs. For my project, I am not focusing on my own dating experience; I am finding an understanding of Asian culture by using my own experiences as reference and context.

My first reaction to the dating show was pure shock and humour. If I envision myself in the position of the audience members, I would see myself rooting for one of the girls, or picture myself dating the man on offer. But instead, from my own perspective, all I could do was laugh. The reasoning behind why the women didn’t want the man seemed so far-fetched and unusual to me and when the first contestant began performing their talent to win over the other, I froze, wide-eyed and whispered …. What the shit am I watching?

This is entirely indicative of a Western, single, young woman mindset who has never considered some of the things these people considered when it comes to dating such as children and whether my family would be ashamed, or whether their hair is too short so he looks too bad …

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Vast outlines critical cultural differences between Asian and the West dating. He explains one of the main points to be that Asian women are interested in guys who genuinely make them feel liked since they are often considered to be insecure. He explains this to come from the fact that “Asian girls focus on how much you care about them, and want to stay with them, because they don’t have the same financial security and earning opportunities as Western women do”. Moua adds to these differences, stating that family values are very important in Asian dating, “women are often introduced to eligible men through their parents’ mutual contacts and are expected to be married [between 22-24]. The parents of the eligible singles often [screen] the other person before deciding if they should start contacting one another.” As such, Asian women look for a man who will please her parents and would provide a family for her soon. Moua continues that public affection is something that Asian couples are expected to avoid – “being seen in public together is often enough for a man and woman to be recognized as a couple.” This is entirely different to Western dating, where affection is often a key point in the relationship.

These stereotypes and dating norms were prevalent in my first reaction to If You Are The One, highlighting the tendency to unconsciously relate to any text we consume by viewing it in the context of our own culture and experiences. Even though I previously did not have a lot of knowledge with Asian dating norms, seeing them so starkly compared to what I am used to has bridged a connection and understanding in under an hour.

To conduct further research on Western match-making, I shamefully reopened my old Tinder conversations to see what kinds of things were talked about first, similarly to an episode of the show. Usually, the conversation began with some cringe-worthy pickup line or comment on appearances, followed by the standard questions like what I do with my life and what my weekend entails. When I compare this to the Asian dating show, similarities do surface like the job questions and the judgement of appearances. However, I am yet to see the use of a pickup line throughout the show and there are definitely no inappropriate sexual comments which are way too common on Tinder 😦

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An interesting point I noticed on a recent episode of If You Are The One, was that a woman instantly turned off her light for an American man and justified this by saying that her family would never approve. From my perspective, interracial dating would never be an issue. But when statistics are considered, 88.8% of Chinese men marry Chinese women, and 79.9% of Chinese women marry Chinese men (source: Le). This, again, creates a difference between Western and Asian culture, understood from an autoethnographic standpoint.

After researching further into Asian dating culture and viewing more episodes of a show that is very similar to that with which Australian people readily consume, I understand more that it is naïve to just brush Asian dating norms off as strange and accept that I would never behave the same way that some Asian people do during dating, because there are actually dense similarities between us. Our context and history has changed certain behaviours, but underlying all these talent and dating shows, there is a culture of appearance judgement and considering how all aspects of your own life would fit with the other person’s life: it is just that these Asian people often live a very different life.

As such, autoethnography has allowed me to grasp an understanding of Asian culture by understanding and examining my own biases and experiences to filter out similarities and differences between the two cultures. I have found that my continual viewing of If You Are The One, has changed slightly where I strangely enough now try to consider myself from an Asian woman’s standpoint to try and guess whether the woman will choose the man or not. It is surprisingly more entertaining. Stay Tuned.

The brutal and hilarious world of Asian dating

Most of you reading this will know about television shows such as The Bachelor and X-Factor. Some of you might even be huge fans, with your Foxtel IQ memory being used up by countless hours of women crying over one man and people who can’t possibly think their talented making a fool of themselves on national television.

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Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of dating and talent shows, but my god has that changed. I have recently been made aware of the single greatest dating show I’ve ever seen. It’s called If You Are The One and it’s so great. Brutal, full of surprises and so opposite to every Western dating norm that I am used to, If You Are The One is a cultural phenomenon. It has bridged an understanding of Chinese dating and partner types through the use of entertainment, but the real understanding comes from my own experiences: the fact that some of the dating standards are so strange and so funny to me produces a strong juxtaposition between Australia and Asia and allows me to understand the culture so much more – a direct feature of autoethnography.

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To describe the show quickly, a lone male suitor has to impress a panel of 24 single women (The Bachelor), who register their interest or disinterest through the use of podium lights (X-Factor). Throughout the show, the man introduces himself through pre-filmed footage and short performances of their talents. If the man and woman choose each other, then they win a trip to the Aegean Sea – wild. But the real lessons and entertainment comes from the reasons the women don’t choose the man, usually for purposes such as their family would disapprove of they are not ready to father children immediately.

My initial encounter with this Chinese dating came a few weeks ago during my first viewing of the show, from which my spiralling obsession has grown. I recorded a few observations during this first episode:

  • Huge live audience with lots of applause
  • All the 24 girls are beautiful and very thin – much like Australian dating shows.
  • The show uses purely English music – empowering as the man walks on, sad music if he walks off alone
  • Win prizes if every girl turns light on. If no one turns on light, they get another chance with audience members who are interested.
  • First impressions: turn lights on if they like him. Purely based on looks (Tinder).
  • Women makes comments like “You’ll be fun to marry”
  • The men and women perform things to impress each other: breaking dancing, singing jazz dancing and yoga – maybe the funniest thing I might have ever seen
  • Seems like a talent show and dating show mixed into one
  • Man shows introductory videos: one of them is about past relationships: re-enacted videos of the lovers together: seems so odd for the new women to want to see that. Man describes why the relationship ended – usually things like careers not matching or man not ready for marriage or children (this usually means many women turn their lights off)
  • So brutal when the countdown from 24 women goes further and further down (written largely on the screen)
  • The participants seem much more picky than Australian dating shows. Consider deeper things than just personality and looks
  • Internal thought: “50 minute episodes and 4 people find a lover or not- this is so much fucking better than an entire season of the Bachelorette. No drama and no tears!!!”
  • One woman sang to show her feelings – ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’ – why an English song?
  • Most men speak of the expectations to find a wife and have children to keep family happy and leave a legacy
  • One couple chose each other and straight away decided by what age they would have children together. When choose each other, straight away choose when to have kids by
  • Feels like such a weird blend between English and Chinese. The music and show really don’t mix together well

As such, my individual research project aims to understand Asia, in particular Chinese dating, through my own experiences, considering how my own cultural biases and experiences form my opinions. “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al. 2011). In this way, the researcher makes themselves the subject of research by using their thoughts and observations. So, by describing and analysing my personal experience of dating and dating shows I will produce research into the cultural experience of Chinese love.

I plan to continue watching more Chinese dating shows (hell yeah), and then produce a digital artefact which compares or relates what I am used to (Western dating) with the norms of Asian dating. I am still tossing up with the form my project will take – however, I am sure I will take notes during the dating shows of anything that seems different to what I am accustomed to. I will then use this information to create a project which clearly highlights the differences in culture, perhaps using reasons that people in Wollongong have decided not to date someone.
Autoethnographic research will allow an insight into Asian culture that regular research would not – application to real life situations. Hopefully, this form of research will produce an interesting, humourous project that bridges an understanding and connection between Australia and Asia.

Reflecting on Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Hindu Epics

Watching the first episode of the 1988 Hindi TV-series Mahabharat and accounting for my experience by live-tweeting my thoughts and opinions on the show has left me with a lot of questions. Is television anywhere near as popular in India as a pastime as it is in Australia? What was the real message behind the show? Why on earth was Ganga killing all her children?

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Ganga and King Santanu (Image Source)

With these questions and my cultural assumptions in mind, — which can be found in my first post here — reflecting on my autoethnographic accounts of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and revelatory. Reflective analysis not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but also pursues a deeper understanding of such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009). By scrutinising my initial comments and assumptions, and by conducting a little more research on all those postulations I tweeted about, here I am, trying to make sense of my Mahabharat experience.

My first enquiry is into the prevalence of television in India, and more precisely, the popularity of Mahabharat across the country. Researching this felt like a history lesson, but albeit an intriguing one. Television for me is a staple, and consuming programs on TV like there is no tomorrow is something I pride myself on. Television in India was introduced in 1959, however “transmission was restricted to areas in and around the capital city of Dehli for over a decade” (Kumar, 2006, p.57). With the arrival of the TV in the Indian family home came the inevitability of globalisation, and moreover a connection to “an increasingly mobile world around them” (Kumar, 2006, p.64). Television allowed families to share in entertainment experiences, created a bond between individuals and the characters they saw on-screen and moreover kept people informed.

As for Mahabharat, “the religious epic captured the collective imagination of Indian viewers” (Kumar, 2006, p.76) since its inception and release. Programs such as this have entrenched a sense of national identity for members of the Indian community (Kumar, 2012), and have been reflections of Indian values, mores and social and cultural norms. To say the show was successful would be an understatement, reaching a diaspora of over five million individuals. “Within weeks of its launch, the TV show became part of many Sunday morning routines” (Awaasthi, 2016). The Mahabharat series has since seen two modern adaptations released as a result of its popular reception in the past, with Lavanya Mohan (2015), writer for the The Hindu stating that “BR Chopra’s Mahabharat revolutionised Indian television of the nineties.

Now that context has been somewhat established and the history of Indian television successes has been explored, my next question is about the content I saw in the first episode of Mahabharat. There were several times throughout the course of the 40 minute show I was left scratching my head in confusion. Was this simply because of a cultural barrier or was the show itself confusing? My guess is the aforementioned.

Mahabharata — note the ‘a’ at the end this time — is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Denoting information on the development of Hinduism, the poem was traditionally attributed to be the work of Vyasa. According to James L. Fitzgerald (2009) of Brown University, the Mahabharata presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India’s culture.” The sacred text was the basis for the television series Mahabharat, and the first episode I saw was regarding the story of Devavrata.

To put it briefly, the first instalment of the Mahabharat series shares the story of King Shantanu and the relationship he has with the goddess Ganga, with whom he marries in human form. She is described by her “superhuman loveliness” (Rajagopalachari, 1979, p.19) and Shantanu’s infatuation with her is duly noted. Following the birth of their children — they have several throughout the course of the first episode — Ganga drowns them in the sacred river Ganges. The first episode of Mahabharat doesn’t explain why Ganga does this, however it is believed that it was due to a curse. So, mystery solved? I think so.

Watching the first episode of Mahabharat with absolutely no knowledge on traditional Hindu stories, the Mahabharata or Sanskrit epics proved challenging to say the least. Not only was it made clear that I was an outsider in this cultural experience, but it also highlighted how unfamiliar cultural phenomena can lose meaning when shared across transnational borders. As I tried to make sense of my Mahabharat experience my own understandings of Hinduism and India’s entertainment industry were confronted with new ideas and interpretations.

As I have acknowledged before, autoethnography demands self-reflexivity and openness to interpret a cultural experience. By researching my cultural assumptions and addressing my ethnically driven concerns with information from books, eminent media platforms and social and historical commentary, my experience and understanding of Indian television and the Mahabharat experience I encountered has profoundly changed. The next time I sit down to watch an episode of Mahabharat I won’t be so thrown by Ganga drowning her children, and I will be able to appreciate the cultural heritage present in the telling of a great Hindu epic.


References:

BULA! Kava, Fiji and culture

My opening post on Kava was based on perceptions both personal and societal with minimal investigation. This post is almost completely research based. So what is Kava?

Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub.’ – Dr Edward, Global Healing Centre.

To follow up on my personal interest of the Fijian beverage, I’ll be undertaking a cultural study of how the drink impacts the country’s lifestyle. When attending my brother’s wedding in Fiji, I’ll speak with locals and gather information from the region to assist in unpacking how this iconic drink fits into their society.

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Since my initial interest was sparked, I’ve had time to gather information and reassess my approach to the study. Initially my attention came from the side effects of Kava itself and the reasons why it is such a popular beverage in Fiji. This interest certainly still exists, however I’m becoming more fixated on the role it plays in Fijian society and how it impacts the local’s lifestyle and way of living.

My opening blog post proposed seven questions and beliefs surrounding Kava. After engaging in further research into the topic, I’ve come up with a few answers.

Q) The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?

A) Kava contains NO ALCOHOL! This was news to me. It is however a depressant like alcohol. It is classified as a ‘psychoactive beverage’ made purely from shrub native to Fiji. There are many different strands of Kava creations that have there own profile ranging from sleepy to numb to relaxed.

Q) Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?

A) Kava is not a psychedelic drug in any way and will not give you warped visions that allow you to see different things. The common perception of this derives from the fact that there are hallucinogenic beverages like Kava such as Ayuhuasca that are often confused to be Kava. This confusion has led to the misconception.

Q) Are its origins entirely Fijian?

A) Kava dates back at least 3000 years. While it is prevalent in Fiji, its creation isn’t entirely claimed by the country. The piper methysticum shrub that is used to create it is found across the Pacific Islands and the beverage itself is drunk in places such as Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Polynesia.

 

Q) The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.

A) As previously mentioned, Kava doesn’t contain alcohol. The age limit, if any, of drinkers was difficult to find therefore I’ll ask locals when arriving in the country.

Q) Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?

A) As per previous answer.

Q) Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?

A) Kava comes from the root of the Yaqona shrub. The shrub is used in multiple ways ranging from strained, crushed, grounded or powdered with water into a very big wooden bowl. It is as simple as it sounds.

Q) Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?

A) Another question that will need plenty of clarification from locals. However, its regular consumption at all times of the day and relaxed, sleepy impact on an individual suggests it may contribute. The fact it isn’t as strong as previously believed to be suggests it couldn’t contribute to a prominent portion of local’s everyday attitudes to any massive degree.

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Following up on my initial perceptions of the Fijian beverage I’ve become aware of the huge revelation that it doesn’t contain alcohol and I’ve also come to realise Kava is a VERY traditional and cultural element in Fijian society. The locals engage in ceremonies using the drink as a symbol and method of creating relationships and strong bonds between each other. The ceremonies centring around Kava have rich histories dating back centuries. I’ll aim to attend one of these ceremonies when in the country.

Another area I’ll research that is of new information is that it has many uses including medicinal, sedation, diuretic, muscle relaxant among many others.

Extending on my now base layer of knowledge on Kava I’ll look to further delve into its role in Fijian society. This will be aided by photographs, videos and hopefully audio interviews obtained from the locals.

Balancing my Yin and Yang Through Yoga; an Autoethnographic Experience

In my first autoethnographic response to yoga I’d begun analysisng my experience with the practice even though I’d already been doing yoga for quite a few months. I still find it fun, however since I’ve been practicing yoga for this project, my uni load has increased ten fold and I’m lucky to get to go once a week. They say if you don’t have time to meditate 20mins every day, then you should meditate for an hour. They obviously don’t understand how limited your time is when pulling all nighters to submit 3000 word essays.

I complete my practices at the Yoga studio down the road called Body Awakenings. The teachers are really helpful and nice and there is no judgement because everyone is just as terrible as you are. The classes do have a female majority of all ages but there are usually a few men who complete the practices regularly too (boyfriends being dragged along by optimistic partners?)

I love the yoga studio itself, you could just walk into that room and feel relaxed even if you don’t complete the practice. There are multiple scented candles, purple and white walls with a giant mandala painted on one and wooden shutters to keep the bright lights out, all of which sets a relaxing ambiance.

The classes run for approximately an hour with multiple styles to choose from including Hatha Yoga, Core Yogalates, Slow Yoga Flow, Yin Yoga, Yin Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga, Core Pilates, Gentle Yogalates, Basic Yoga Flow, Roller and Release with Core Flow, Qui Gong, Meditation along with Teen, Prenatal and Mums and Bubs Yoga classes.

As there are so many classes I haven’t had a chance to try them all, (also not all of them apply to me seeing as I’m not pregnant or a teenager.) However I have tried Hatha Yoga, Yin and Yin and Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga and Core Pilates.

My favorite for sure was Yin Yang Yoga because you can relax while holding poses for 2-5 mins while incorporating normal flow yoga where poses are held for 10-20 seconds. Plus it makes you feel cleansed and energetic afterwards.

I researched how this actually worked because the class just involved a whole lot of bending over and lying down and it just seemed to good to be true.

Yin Yang yoga style incorporates a balance between deep long stretches and a Hatha style flow. It’s designed to simultaneously release energy flow and expand flexibility through penetrating deep into connective tissue. Further developing muscular strength and stamina with the combination of the two styles.

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An artistic representation of the Yin Yang Ideology depicting the balance between night and day and the sea and sky. Credit Yogi Surprise, Pintrest

Many people are familiar with the ancient Chinese Yin Yang symbol which emphasizes balance and the cycle of life, how one force dominates and is thus replaced with the opposing force. This is often used a metaphors for life and death, heaven and earth, night and day, health and sickness, poverty and wealth and the cycle of the seasons (winter to summer). Known as the Tai Chi (or Taiqi) symbol, this ideology is mirrored through the yoga style as it balances stillness and movement throughout its practice. Ester Ekhart , describes Yin Yang as best for people who are tired, overstimulated, have overactive mindsets and erratic energy.  I feel this directly applies to me and was invented with myself in mind which must explain why this practice just felt right. My balance between work, uni and attempting to maintain a social life is all out of whack and my inner eye needed some ancient yin yang to work that out.

Here is a Youtube tutorial for a 35min Yin Yang class for beginners to advanced levels of yoga, aiming to release stress if you want further insight into the style by Yoga with Kassandra.

My research has also uncovered that Yoga itself originated in India, beginning as a spiritual process which had the ability to heal yourself and inner being. Many practices which are today defined as different yoga styles, originated in India around the same time that Hindu ideology begun to emerge, therefore the two are often associated with one another. Despite this, it is important to note that the two are separate as yoga is more a way of thinking and living instead of a religion. A Cure Joy editorial emphasizes ‘ It is wrong to identify yoga through religion- just as it is wrong to identify an American product as a Christian product’. I like this metaphor as it helps you visualize how the practice of yoga itself differs from the Hindu religion despite their similarities in ideology.

Yoga styles practiced in the west, can be traced back over 5000 years ago. However as early transcriptions regarding the practice were secretive and passed on orally and written on palm tree leaves which are easily lost or damaged, it is possible that the practice of yoga is over 10,000 years old.  There are 3 different periods which have influenced the creation of yoga as it’s practiced today in the west.

The Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India developed the beginnings of Pre-Classical Yoga and coined the term ‘Yoga’ in the oldest of the 4 sacred Hindu texts, the Rigveda which is a collection of ancient Indian Sanskrits. Yoga was then refined by the Brahman’s priests and Rishis who documented the practice in the Upanishad, consisting of over 200 scriptures. The Upanishad utilized the idea of ritual sacrifice and applied it to the practice in the sacrifice of individual ego through self-knowledge, karma and wisdom.  The Classical period of yoga begun in the 2nd century and is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which were the first presentation of yoga that cultivated many different styles and conflicting ideas which were seen throughout the practice. Patanjali was the first to denote the idea of the Eight Limbs of yoga in the Yoga-Sutras. Because of this he is seen as the ‘father of yoga’ as many of the Sutras outlined still influence modern styles of yoga today. The Post- Classical yoga period saw yoga masters attempting to refine the practice futher to explore the physical- spiritual connection between the mind and the body as a means to rejuvenate the body and extend life. This period saw the development of Tantra Yoga, utilizing radical techniques to cleanse the mind and body and ‘break the knots which tie us to our physical existence’.

Modern Yoga was bought to the west by yoga masters in the 18-1900’s. Hatha Yoga which is the most common style practiced in the west encompasses many of the fore mentioned attributes including sacrificing individual ego, self-knowledge, karma practice, wisdom, The Eight Limbs and the separation of mind and body as alternate entities. The first Hatha Yoga School was opened in 1924 by Krishamacharya in Mysore in India. (Today is known as Mysuru) It wasn’t until 1947 that Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, and since then it has been embraced by stressed out white people like myself worldwide.

Brought to me by the ancient yoga masters in India, practicing yoga has helped me feel like I’m getting my life together, or maybe I’m just more clam as it’s falling apart. Regardless my experience with yoga has made me feel enlightened and I thoroughly enjoyed expanding my knowledge on the history and origins of the practice.

 

References;

 

 

 

 

Okashi

I have to start by saying that any assessment where I get to integrate food is always going to be a good one, especially ‘okashi’, which is the Japanese word for treats and snacks. For my individual autoethnographic research, I decided to purchase a basket full of treats from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. This is the closest location to where I live to gain access to Asian groceries without physically having to go to an Asian country. With the guidance of my partner Jon, who has previously lived in Japan, we filled a basket full of primarily Japanese based treats. All of the items chosen were a new taste, not ever having tried them before. I filmed the whole experience of the first taste test which made it very easy to watch over and reflect.

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(Source: Cubit, A 2016)

Firstly, it is worth noting the initial selection process of the Japanese based candy at the supermarket. I struggled to identify the difference of Chinese based packaging to Japanese. Most products did have English translated words, such as “strawberry flavour”. However, without the guidance of Jon, I would have got a largely mixed bag of candy and drinks from all over the Asian region. This brings to light the major barrier that language has on interpreting what it is you are buying. Without English translations that are available on imported goods, or the further guidance of Jon who has tried those foods, speaks Japanese and lived in Japan for over a year, I would have not been able to have had the experience that I did, of trying Japanese candy in Australia.

Similarly, it was evident throughout the whole 20 minutes of taste testing, I was critically referencing what I was trying, back to an Australian based taste. For example, “this biscuit reminds me of tiny teddies”. This could mean one of two things. The first is that it could be me trying to understand Japanese culture through my Australian context. For me to grasp and take in what It was I was trying, I was searching for the Australian equivalent. Similarly, it could also have meant that I understood that the video was going to be watched by an Australian audience, thus I could have been referring to the Australian context, to ensure my audience could connect with the foods I was trying.

Moreover, the packaging was something that really stood out to me. The colours were all very bright and most included images of the flavour for example. The candy also largely had a cartoon character of some sort, which I believe was to connect the target market of children, with the product. A cross-cultural study on the affects of advertising in US, Japanese and English families outlined how “Japanese children have a significantly lower level of television viewing that the US and British children” (Robertson et al., 1989). Perhaps this is why the packaging is so bold and colourful, as marketers are focusing on the need to gain attention of children in-store as television advertising targeted towards children is absent or minimal in Japan? Such packaging also could fit with the Kawaii or “cute” culture in Japan.

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(Source: Dreamstime.com)

The reoccurring theme in my above deconstruction of my initial post is how my Australian context not only forms my opinion of product selection, tastes, and packaging, it also informed my method of recording as well as the factors I chose to analyse. Living in metropolitan Australia, I am lucky enough to have access to a range of groceries from Asia, with the closest Asian grocer only 5 minutes away. This is a central factor to my research as I was able to gain access to the treats quite easily. It wasn’t a huge event in tracking down such foods. Thus making my experience of accessing Japanese culture and foods straight forward, even though I am almost 8000km away from Japan.

Sources:

Dreamstime, 2016, Kawaii Foods, retrieved from <https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/cute-kawaii-dessert-cake-macaroon-ice-cream-icons-vector-set-food-isolated-white-54668595.jpg.&gt;

Free Map Tools, 2016, Tokyo to Sydney, retrieved from < https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between-sydney_-australia-and-tokyo_-japan.htm>

Robertson, T, Ward, S, Gatignon, H, & Klees, D 1989, ‘Advertising and Children: A Cross-Cultural Study’,Communication Research, 16, 4, p. 459, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 September 2016.