Author: himynameismeg

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].

Into the Inferno: an Analysis of My Experience

I did not intentionally watch the latest Herzog documentary Into the Inferno for the purposes of this class, in fact I would have never have thought that a film about volcanoes could be studied in a subject called Digital Asia, but here I am. As a geology student, this is a very different form of research that I am accustomed to, analyzing my own thoughts and reactions to an experience seems to invite bias. However that may be the point of the study, bias is useful as long as the individual is aware of it.

“Consequently, when terms such as reliability, validity, and generalizability are applied to autoethnography, the context, meaning and utility of these terms are altered” (Ellis, C et, al. 2011)

 

North Korea: News and Popular Culture 

North Korea (NK) has been the in news headlines all over the world recently due to their recent success in nuclear weapons testing. North Korean leaders often depicted as ‘evil’ and the enemy in the media I had never really looked much into the reality of everyday life of the NK citizens, in fact the leaders are so outrageous and alien to my cultural perspective that I’ve never really thought about the actual citizens of the country. The 2014 American film ‘The Interview’ caused major controversy a it is about the assassination of the leader of North Korea Kim Jong II, who threatened “merciless retaliation” upon it’s release.

The_Interview_2014_poster

Because the nation is so isolated politically and economically my perception of the country is only how it is portrayed in the media, and I have not thought to put the effort in to challenge that portrayal. Into the inferno was the first glimpse that I have had inside NK, and specifically made me think about the Universities and scientific research is conducted without global allies.

Analyzing my Experience

I think my first reactions to the film were really showing of my knowledge of North Korea. I was so shocked and very wary of the situation that Herzog and his film crew were in, and under what circumstances they were in the county.

“I honestly don’t know much about North Korea, just that it is an almost impervious country which is politically and economically self reliant. I’ve seem news headlines warning of the danger that it poses especially with the recent leaps in nuclear weapons, but here were a bunch of 20 something year old’s cheering and singing with incredible  passion at a bloody mountain. It stuck me that I could never imagine a similar scene occurring in Australia, or most countries come to think of it.”

I think the most telling realization was when I assumed that the group marching towards the camera were soldiers rather than university students. It was such a foreign concept to see these students dressed in military uniform and acting so routinely in comparison to the free speaking and colorfully dress students of UOW campus.

When they first meet the scientist, millions of questions run through my head: If the mountain is so symbolic, how much are the North Korean volcanologists allowed to study it? When studying geology in North Korea, how much research do they have access to from the outside world? How do the universities in general work? is everything censored or skewed to fit the ideology of the party? How do scientists collaborate and learn up to date findings without attending scientific conferences or access to research?How do they contribute their own findings to global scientific community?

I think it was at this point that really got to me, being a science student we are constantly reading scientific literature by foreign scholars and hearing about professors travelling to conduct research all over the world. I knew that media and internet is extremely censored in NK and that their scientists are obviously conducting very recent science evident by recent nuclear tests. It wasn’t until I saw this NK volcanologist on screen that I really thought about a university functioning with strict censorship laws.

This opened up a whole can of worms as you can see, science without collaboration or community is slow and often unreliable due to lack of scope. I became so in awe of how this man became a volcanologist, is there even more than one volcano to study in North Korea? Maybe I was just being naive about the reality of the global stance of the county but I was still quite invested.

I decided to look into the reality of the isolation of North Korea and it’s Universities. Pyongyang University started in 2010 and was founded by Korean-American Chan-Mo Park, the university often has relations with academics outside of NK however recently that has been threatened by political tensions.

References 

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

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/north-korea-travel-ban-would-hit-pyongyang-university-hard

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28014069

https://pust.co/

Into the Inferno: Not your average Volcano Documentary

There I was, scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch while I was cooking dinner on an average Wednesday night, when I came across the latest Werner Herzog documentary: Into the Inferno. I’d seen a few of his documentaries previously and was excited to see volcanoes Herzog style, geology lectures generally don’t play dramatic classical symphonies over slow motion footage of volcanic lava.

So I nestle in ready 2 hours of glorious narration by Herzog, following British volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer to locations all over the world studying volcanoes.

1:09:84 21767154_10156325299952908_1612912208_o

(Source: Netflix, Into the Inferno, 1:09:84)

When I first saw this locality title I didn’t think much of it, honestly I just saw ‘Korea” and kept watching as I had been. It wasn’t until wasn’t until Herzog mentioned it that I noticed, and immediately had 100’s of questions running though my head. No build up,  explanation or acknowledging the strangeness of the situation that he had presented to his audience.

Soldiers began to emerge from the foggy ominous background, marching in unison with the only sound their footfalls. I actually began to fear for the film crew, I didn’t know why they were there, how they got there and under what conditions they did get there. As the group approaches the camera they stop just before, turn to face Mt Paektu and begin cheering, turns out they are university students. Feeling slightly confused and a little ridiculous I continue to watch the students sing praise and cheer to the mountain.

I honestly don’t know much about North Korea, just that it is an almost impervious country which is politically and economically self reliant. I’ve seem news headlines warning of the danger that it poses especially with the recent leaps in nuclear weapons, but here were a bunch of 20 something year old’s cheering and singing with incredible  passion at a bloody mountain. It stuck me that I could never imagine a similar scene  occurring in Australia, or most countries come to think of it.

Hertzog finally explains that North Korea agreed to a joint scientific program with the University of Cambridge and North Korean Volcanologists, and they were invited to film. He mentions that everything they saw was an act of presentation, as there is no other way to see this country than how it wants to be seen. This is evident even in the scene I had just watched, the regimented students marching up to the camera and cheering as if they could not even see the film crew, everything was an act.

The documentary seems to get side tracked, focusing on the rare opportunity and insight into North Korean culture they have been provided instead of the study of volcanoes. Herzog shows footage of television propaganda which depict a country united, completely in unison and admiration of the leadership. It appears as an amazing unison of people, no individuals, just the nation as a whole and their art and performance reflect this.

397EF05700000578-3849592-The_team_also_heads_over_to_Ethiopia_Iceland_and_even_makes_thei-a-14_1476830320841

(Source: Netflix, Into the Inferno)

Small tremors detected by seismic instruments around Mt Paektu has sparked scientific interest. The university of Cambridge has been building a relationship with North Korean scientist for years and have finally been given the opportunity meet them. When they first meet the scientists millions of questions run through my head:

  • If the mountain is so symbolic, how much are the North Korean volcanologists allowed to study it?
  • When studying geology in North Korea, how much research do they have access to from the outside world?
  • How do the universities in general work? is everything censored or skewed to fit the ideology of the party?
  • How do scientists collaborate and learn up to date findings without attending scientific conferences or access to research?
  • How do they contribute their own findings to global scientific community?

This opened up a whole can of worms as you can see, science without collaboration or community is slow and often unreliable due to lack of scope. I became so in awe of how this man became a volcanologist, is there even more than one volcano to study in North Korea? Maybe I was just being naive about the reality of the global stance of the county but I was still quite invested.

The scientist was using a translator to talk to the crew, however it still sounded very scripted, rigid and official, not just being translated but also censored. Everything he says is interlaced with propaganda of the leadership ideology. The founder of the Korean state appropriated the myth of Mt Paektu, and established his secret head quarters right at the foot of the mountain. Their ‘assigned’ Historian explains the war monuments, telling a story of the soldiers in a campground, so moved by setting foot on their home ground they could not sleep.  All of the Monuments are about the people, not glorified individuals but the unity of their nation. Strange to think that their government is almost quasi religion, not just an influencing, government figures are worshiped like higher beings.

Herzog concludes that off stage there is an underlying emptiness, their lack of connection to the outside world makes it a eerie place. He mentions the strangeness of walking through a subway and seeing people not glued to their cellphones. No advertising, just propaganda. No news stands, only the official party newspaper on display. Everywhere are pictures of the leaders, always in the vicinity of the volcano.

Its safe to say that I was no longer in the kitchen making dinner but rather plonked on the couch with so many questions. I realized that North Korea is not only a different cultural experience in my eyes, but for every single other country, there is nothing quite like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autoethnography

Before this class Digital Asia, I had never heard the term or concept of  autoethnography, but after doing a little research it became clear that it is quite a controversial scientific method with varying degrees of respect from the scientific community. Carolyn Ellis and associates provide a detailed overview of the practice of autoethnography:

Autoethnography is a form of research that requires the author to immerse themselves in the subject matter and to “analyze their own personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. (Ellis et al., 2011)

This definition and discussion in class took me back to year 11 psychology in high school, and the difficulty of studying a science that cannot be directly observed or quantified. Just like autoethnography, psychology was also perceived as an unprofessional domain as much of the research involves making assumptions and drawing conclusions without physical concrete evidence.

But I found this kind of study interesting, because it wasn’t simply a right or wrong answer, but instead a series of observations and connections that were specific to each expert.

I had the thought that it would be interesting to use the process of autoethnography as a tool for studying psychology, and it is actually quite a popular avenue. Peter McIlveen from the university of southern Queensland suggests the use of autoethnography as a reflexive research tool in vocational psychology (McIlveen, 2008).

‘The narrative approach in psychology represents an ontological and epistemological stance generative of theory, research, and practice which comprehends the person as a social construction perpetually formed and reformed in and of socially mediated discourse, talk, text, and image.’ (McIlveen, 2008) 

Because of the qualitative rather than quantitative nature of autoethnography in combination with reflexive study, many experts believe that this process is too bias to be counted as a reliable research tool. An individual whilst trying to remain objective may be ignorant of their own bias, much like actual ability and perceived ability in psychology.

As part ethnography, autoethnography is dismissed for social scientific standards as being insufficiently rigorous, theoretical, and analytical, and too aesthetic, emotional, and therapeutic (Ellis et el., (2011)

I believe that autoethnography can be a very informative and enlightening way of researching particular aspects that may not be as easy to quantify or nail down. As long as there an understanding of the process and potential bias is taken into consideration i could prove to be a very popular method of understanding cultural perspectives.

 

References

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

McIlveen, P. (2008). Autoethnography as a Method for Reflexive Research and Practice in Vocational Psychology. Australian Journal of Career Development, 17(2), pp.13-20.

Gojira

I have my brother to thank for my introduction into the world of Japanese media, the many plots he conjured to sneakily change the channel from mum’s morning news to the much loved Cheez TV without her noticing. Though thinking back it was probably the chaos of organizing 3 rowdy children that she was oblivious to the change of station rather than my brothers sly ploys. Either way from a very young age I’ve been watching Anime, Manga and various other forms of Japanese media starting with Pokemon, One Piece, Avatar and Naruto on morning TV to watching Attack on Titan and Full Metal Alchemist as subbed series online. I have not however watched many non-animated Japanese movies so I was quite excited to see how or if it would differ from the mediums I usually consume.

In the first couple of scenes I very much got a Hitchcock “the Birds” vibe with the old school cinematic horror techniques and sounds scores. I think that I thought it would feel more culturally different being a Japanese film in the 1950’s, however the characters, the dress codes and the societal interactions all were very familiar to me. Even though it is in a different language I can still relate to the humor and references, it is more the old style film techniques that is different to consume, but no different to old  black and white films made in Hollywood. I also found that although this is supposed to be a horror film most of the class ended up laughing at the things that were supposed to scare us, but I think this is a symptom of the old film techniques as we are spoiled with very realistic special effects of modern cinema.

As the film progressed and the twitter feed became more researched some of my classmates where drawing connections between the themes in the movie and it’s post war release.

I started viewing the film from a completely different perspective picking up on the indirect references war an nuclear disaster such as two women complaining on a train “First contaminated tuna, and now Godzilla”, then becoming less subtle with the main protagonists arguing about combating violence with violence. from the perspective of an audience with nuclear war fresh in their minds these references would have cut close to the bone and probably would have been more obvious, the horror not being a gimmicky monster but more so what that monster represents: a devastating weapon created by the greed of mankind. As the Tanaka said “Mankind had created the Bomb………and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind”.

The filmmakers then go on to leave the audience with a foreshadowing political message: “If we keep conducting nuclear tests, another Godzilla may appear somewhere in the world.”

 

References

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10788996/Godzilla-why-the-Japanese-original-is-no-joke.html