humanity

Autoethnography and Me

“…Scholars began recognizing that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world” (Ellis et al, 2011).
I believe that this is, at it’s core, what autoethnography aims to reveal.

When I first heard the word autoethnography I was excited. I’m a fan of etymology (the study of words and their roots) and as such I like to take apart words. I know auto refers to ones self or the ability to do things on their own, such as in autobiography and automobile. I also knew that ethnos refers to nations of groups of people, and that the –ography suffix is about the study of such things. So putting that together, autoethnography is about the study of the self, combined with/in the context of a group of people, or something like that.

Chris told us that it’s also a portmanteau of autobiography and ethnography, meaning we’ll be looking heavily at ourselves and using qualitative data to do our research. I find this particularly interesting as I’ve always been taught that “facts don’t care about your feelings”. While I like that phrase, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully believed it, as it’s pretty noticeable in the world that the world is full of assumptions and “rules” based upon how people react to certain elements.

I believe that autoethnography is about finding that personal reaction to another culture. It’s about studying the culture, not from afar with a telescope, or up close under a microscope, but by using your own eyes to really feel the culture.
I think autoethnographic research is going to be a welcome breathe of fresh air for me. Having hated Math in high school because it was too “there is only one answer”, yet also not enjoyed English because I had to pander to how the teacher wanted me to write, I think I’m going to enjoy expressing my own views and experiences, regardless of what is “right” or “wrong”.

Throw everything you know about research to the wind! Autoethnography is here.

We have been blogging our entire degree’s.

Reflective, observant, and critical. These are the tenets of good blogging practice.

Heavily lacing our work with respective anecdotes, embedded personal tweets, and ~poignant~ gifs, blogging has allowed us to imbed ourselves into the topics in which we are discussing. Although celebrated among the blogosphere, with the visible benefits of this authorial point of view shining through, auto-ethnographical approaches to study are heavily regarded as epistemologically damaging to research.

Although not shocking, it is alarming that the benefits of self-reflexivity is ignored among the general population of the research world.

Auto-ethnography, as defined by Ellis, is the process of acknowledging and accommodating for the subjectivity, emotionality, and personal influence of the researcher within research. This in turn provides varying insights into the work that could not have been investigated otherwise.

This title, although a little pompous and verbose, is quite revealing with regard to the function of this form of methodology. The untraditional practice ‘seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Although canonical and autoethnographical research methods are highly varied in their manifestation, they are both governed by a large range of conventions which influence their understanding and the way in which they were constructed. There are distinct parallels to be drawn between both modes of research, autoethnography just decides to acknowledge this bias.

But what is the incentive for classical researchers to transition, or even consider this line of methodology?

The intimate nature of the research may pose unique insights into issues regarding culture possibly overlooked, or out of reach to traditional researchers. Issues regarding identity, mental health, society. These are all very personal points of studying within sociology, one in which researchers have varying depths of interaction with. This introspection, helping the researcher make sense of his or her own experiences in relation to the point of study, is as a result of what Ellis defines as epiphanies.

maxresdefault

Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjfHnCjy3Pc

Just like the intense moment Homer Simpson experienced in The Simpsons movie, autoethnographers voluntarily undergo a recurring period of critical self-reflection, with regard to the way in which they have interacted with their subject. Although sounding like what happens to everyone after sending a ‘risky text’, this methodology affords numerous benefits to the research and audience. It is apt in remaining transparent, revealing the binary established between researcher and researched, as well as the self and the other. Classical research studies assumes this dichotomy, but autoethnography aims to bridge this gap. Autoethnography further explores interaction, and insertion of the researcher as a means to reveal narrative nuances present within the subject being studied, acknowledging the present biases affecting the way both things and research operate.

As someone who has had limited, or very superficial interactions with Asian culture, it will be interesting to explore this line of research.

References:

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.

Méndez, Mariza. (2013). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal15(2), 279-287. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-46412013000200010&lng=en&tlng=en.

Less Red M&M’s, More Empathy

Every time anyone suggests I give my account on a reading or academic terminology I’m usually pretty critical. Stuff like “this was almost as relevant as the argument for more red m&m’s“. “I’ve seen more interesting things come from the arse of a rabbit”, or my personal favourite; “The human centipede has produced less shit from their mouth”.

Despite my above and clearly grotesque criticisms, I felt that Ellis et al spoke to me in a way that was relevant to my life and my future learnings. Most of the theories that we learn in communications, especially heavy communications theory like “stacks” are so irrelevant to our future learnings and the only time we actually reference them is in essays or assignments that we desire to get very good marks in. Autoethnography occurred to me due to its reflective nature, something integral that requires empathy. Things that require the acknowledgement of another human being’s life and culture also involve the alteration of a specific state of mind; the state of mind being ego to altruism or cosmopolitanism. Ellis et al states that autoethnographers seek to “sensitize readers to issues of identity politics, to experiences shrouded in silence, and to forms of representation that deepen our capacity to empathize with people who are different from us”. You know when your teachers used to say to you in primary school “jump in someone else’s boots”? this is exactly what they’re talking about.

Because auto ethnography requires empathy, most researchers agree that the assumption of neutrality is not tenable (Ellis. C et al, 2011). Ethnography isn’t only utilised to empathise with others but rather inform outsiders of beliefs, practices and experiences; and that’s exactly what the modern dissemination of Confucianism does. Confucianism, often characterised “as a system of social and ethical philosophy rather than a religion.” (AsiaSociety.com) Is a system built on benevolence and transcendent ideology and is arguably the catalyst on which Buddhism was established.

184710-004-587aa143

 

I myself understand Confucianism to be a philosophy of life, embodied within every human being and not only those who practice Tibetan and Burmese traditions. The world is global and so is ideology; an intangible thought process or standpoint about yourself and the energy around you. These energies and thoughts can be processed anyway the human being likes. As an ethnographer practicing Confucian traditions such as benevolence doesn’t make me any different and I feel as though that’s not everyone’s perspective – after all the key is to acknowledge every human being as exactly that, a human and not “the other”. And just because Confucianism originated in China, doesn’t mean I have to be Chinese to understand it, especially in the modern world. If auto ethnographers are “participant observers” in a culture, spirituality is the perfect observational avenue for this.

Autoethnography: What’s it all about?

When I first came across the term “autoethnography” I had initially dismissed it as another tedious, research-related term which I would struggle to comprehend and eventually get frustrated by. However, mid-way through reading “Autoethnography: An Overview” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011), I had the realisation that the term referred to the method of using personal experiences as a means to subjectively comprehend cultural experiences (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, pg.1), with subjectively being the key word. Because, as the article points out, “autoethnography is one of the approaches that acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, pg.4).

wtfit

My IRL reaction to the term “autoethnography”

When I started to think about this form of research, it occurred to me that I have been an autoethnographer since I started university, although for most of the time unknowingly. Through my blog, I have been using personal experiences to gain an understanding of cultural experience. With a huge interest in film, I realized that film-makers too (especially documentarians) are autoethnographers. They reshape their own personal  and cultural experiences and use it to create a narrative which goes on to share a film-maker’s experience. 

With this in mind, I am now beginning to think about how I will use auto ethnography to gain a further understanding on Asian horror films, particularly ‘J-Horror’. As someone who is a massive fan of the 1998 classic “Ringu”, I am incredibly excited to use J-Horror as the basis for my autoethnographic research. In the coming weeks, I will hopefully zone in on the specifics of the research process and through what medium I will present it.

RINGU

Until then…

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and 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>

Understanding the ‘Enemy’ through Gojira

When I was eighteen years old I visited the Vietnamese war museum with my mother. We saw actual traps the Viet Cong had used to kill members of the ‘enemy’, including Australians. We heard stories, absolutely barbaric tales of what ‘American’ (which, in this context, was defined to be everyone fighting against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War) soldiers had done to Vietnamese forces. Inside the museum, graphic images of mutilated and dead children were displayed like art. We left the building after only fifteen minutes; it was too confronting to stay.

vietnamese

Brutal images such as this one were displayed at the Vietnamese War Museum. In my school education of the Vietnam War, I wasn’t given the opportunity to consider that the other side suffered too, and maybe soldiers fighting for us were brutal also (image: AWS).

 

The way in which we partake in any attempt at research on a group we are a part of holds a necessary bias known as reflexivity. This week in DIGC330: Digital Asia, we became familiar with this idea through making sense of the film Gojira (1954). This film is the original Godzilla. It’s Japanese, black and white, and extremely different in content and structure to the Hollywood blockbusters we see today.@Although I did not realise this at the commencement of the film, Gojira was heavily influenced by the events surrounding World War II. Prior to this realisation, I was pretty confused at the story of the film. This is probably more due to my trying to live-tweet the film as I viewed it; the attention economy is apparently one where I struggle to function. I wasn’t alone, much of the class seemed fairly light-hearted and the resulting Twitter conversation was rather humorous. It contained a variety of memes, puns and literary reference, some of which were clever and others downright cringy.

Once it became apparent that the film carried a darker message, conversations about the second World War and the artistic relevance of the film were established. What resonated with me was the power of human emotion, the brutality of war and how my school experience provided me with a very one-sided education on World War II. It’s also interesting to note that the Japanese school curriculum contains very little 20th century history, with a particular absence of Japan’s role in not only World War II, but other notable conflicts in Asia and beyond.

dig2.JPG

Source: Twitter @c_lair_e_96

 

I always learned that Japan fought amongst the enemy and with brutal force. The Australian soldiers, I was told, fought bravely protect our country. Maybe this is true, but there’s so much more to the story. Viewing this film showed the passion, patriotism and agony of the War as part of the Japanese story. We forget that our side fought with brutality too; US forces dropped nuclear weapons on two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 129 000 people were killed. It is argued by some that without this action, the war may have ended with worse destruction, but we will never know. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare again (thus far).

Scenes including the one where a woman clung to her small children, promising they would be reunited with their (presumably dead) father, were absolutely heartbreaking to watch. This was never an image I would have conjured in my mind when thinking about the Japanese WWII experience.

goj.jpg

Human suffering is universal. Why is this not represented in history books? (Image: Shenanitims)

I have ancestors who fought in wars such as these; this affects my attitude towards the conflict portrayed and my experience of watching the ‘enemy’ suffer. Viewing this film reinforced to me that, aside from political differences, the human experiences of love, pain, suffering and loyalty are very much coherent across different cultures. Even viewing this piece through poorly-translated subtitles, black and white film and almost comically inept special effects gave me this valuable insight, despite being some fifty years and 7902 kilometres away from the intended Japanese audience.

-Claire

Introductions to Anime – A Reflection of the Human Condition?

Making the decision to study anime, I went back to the moment where my love blossomed.

Three years ago I stumbled across a video called “Every Anime Opening Ever.” At that stage in my life I didn’t identify myself as an otaku or much of a fan of anime. I had watched bits of Sailor Moon and was a fan of Akira Toriyama‘s work, however, since Dragon Ball Z was so popular in the “West,” I didn’t exclusively associate it with Japan. It wasn’t until I watched this video, where I exclusively remember saying to myself, I really love anime.

Three years later at my computer I open my browser, click on the YouTube icon in my bookmarks bar, and search “Every Anime Opening Ever.” I find it automatically, it’s the top hit. The video has amassed over 2.2 million views, a testament to both the video’s popularity, and the popularity of the genre. My lips curl into a smile as I open the video. Now familiar to me, my smile widens as Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Euro Mega-Mix” begins to play alongside fast and colourful cuts from a range of different anime’s, some familiar to me, some alien. It’s incredible to see how many conventions permeate the opening credits. I wonder what initially inspired these conventions?

Derek Lieu, the creator of the video, states that the repeated imagery that exist in anime opening credit sequences has “always amused me.” He first became aware of these permeating conventions when watching the X-Men intro made in Japan to replace the American one. He states, “the part that especially hit home was Wolverine, and Cyclops standing on some nondescript land mass,” (pictured below.)

Xmen

(more…)