An autoethnographic investigation into the culture and regulations of beer consumption within India.
Contributors: Kurt, Mel, Farnaz & Eddie.
An autoethnographic investigation into the culture and regulations of beer consumption within India.
Contributors: Kurt, Mel, Farnaz & Eddie.
Over the past decade, manga, along with other quintessential elements of Japanese pop culture, have had a souring increase in popularity within the western world. Reflecting back on my own upbringing, what once was considered a niche source of entertainment for very few children, is now being used for discussion on pervasive social issues, as well as within academic research. This overwhelming increase in recognition and application has led to a wider interest in Japanese culture through the apt appropriation of these cultural materials as a source of poignant socio-cultural information. Manga has always presented itself as something that I am curious about, but I lacked both the urgency and connection to the medium to pursue this curiosity further.
As discussed within my initial auto-ethnographical account, Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1, my interactions with manga were both encountered by initial chance, and self-directed curiosity on the issue.
What’s interesting to me is the way in which constructing my narrative, for the purpose of discussing my initial interaction with manga, prompted epiphanies regarding the topic. Through following Ellis et al’s suggested narrative methodology in order to ‘bring readers into the scene – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions’ provoked an awareness of occurrences and intricacies which heavily influenced my motivation on the topic.
My first epiphany was with regard to my own privilege. Although the concept of privilege, and its function within society, is highly systemic, it is also exceedingly relative to the country in question. Japanese culture operates not only culturally different to Australia, but also socially on a lot of issues. Due to these socio-cultural biases and my lack of interaction with manga, I came to view manga as a revolutionary tool before seeing it as an entertainment medium.
The history of Japan is completely separate from what we know as the West. Its evolution regarding distinctive philosophies, socio-cultural structures and religious authority, understandably built Japan into the country it is today. Although there is no law against homosexuality within Japan, there is little discussion of LGBT issues at all. Topics and representations of homosexuality are frequently kept silent, and gay rights, including marriage, receives very little political discussion. This poses itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences within Australia, and this knowledge has prompted me to view Japanese LGBTQ+ culture as repressed and systemically discriminated against.
As evidenced within my initial account, I opened the post with an account of a marriage equality rally in which I attended. This comparison was done with clear intention and motivation, so as to reveal the glaring differences in culture, and the experiences of the respective LGBTQ+ communities to the audience. Focusing on the phenomena of ‘patterns of cultural experiences’ discussed by Ellis et al, we can witness repeated stories and happenings of similar minority groups (i.e. acts of discrimination and erasure), albeit at different points in time. This awareness promotes curiosity into the different cultural structures that facilitated the difference in evolution of this social groups acceptance. But also, because of the dual presence of queer communities in both cultures, it raises the question of how LGBTQ+ communities navigate their domineering culture through the appropriation of untraditional modes of communication.
This epiphany highlighted, as well as indirectly structuring the way I would address the function of manga as not only a source of entertainment, but as a source of queer liberation in a culture that traditionally objects to the ‘unordinary’. This dual function is pertinent to its success as an escapist and revolutionary medium.
Manga provides audiences with a merging of visual and literary examples of Japanese culture, thus allowing manga the potential to be a rich and enduring source of cultural information (Dudley, 2012, p. 2). Emblematic of most cross-cultural texts however, manga’s ability to serve as not only a vehicle for Japanese culture, but also an important tool for social activism, depends on the way in which it is translated. Branching off Ellis’ comments regarding the ‘comparing of personal experiences with existing research’, it was evident that Japanese texts had the capability to operate in much the same way that Western socio-political inspired texts operate, an example of which being film. Traditionally, most manga sources are translated for the purposes of entertainment. Within the pages of manga, you are able to be anything that you like- a supernatural being, super hero or a person of another gender identity. The narrative structure of manga assisted in easing my struggle with reading this text, especially regarding the lack of prior engagement I had with it.
Within the imaginary world constructed by manga, concepts of gender and sexuality are often quite fluid, so it is no shock that many LGBTQ+ people are turning to manga for sympathetic representations of their lived experiences. Within my initial account, I referred to two manga- Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura No Hentai (2012). Although both address similar topics regarding trans* identity, their execution varying drastically. Wandering Son, due to my own perceptions regarding trans* identity, was read with intense contempt. I unfortunately could not finish the text, revealing the way in which my own cultural framework influenced the way in which I viewed the text. As opposed to viewing the story as the starting point for queer representation on an evolutionary timeline regarding the acceptance of these identities, I viewed it as highly repressive contrast to what I am accustomed to in my own cultural space. However, reading Bokura No Hentai directly after Wandering Son however heightened my affinity for the latter text, due to the fact that it aligned more consistently to the social codes that I am used to, as well as my own moral compass.
Bokura no Hentai, Mangafox, viewed 3 September 2017, http://m.mangafox.me/manga/bokura_no_hentai/
Dudley, J 2012, Manga as Cross-Cultural Literature: The effects of Translation on Cultural Perceptions, viewed 9 September 2017, https://scholarship.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/bitstream/handle/10066/14759/2012DudleyJ_thesis.pdf?sequence=1
Ellis, C 2011, Autoethnography: A Review, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, viewed 10 September 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 11 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues
Wandering Son, Fantagraphic, viewed 4 September 2017, http://www.fantagraphics.com/wanderingson1/
Closing my eyes, I focus on the booming, crackling voice heard over the sound systems which had been strategically placed around Town Hall. Surging waves of cheers and applause heavily laced every remark made by opposition leader Bill Shorten, pre-empting the reaction of his words with a slight raise in his tone.
“All I see is a community filled with love and support for one another…” he exclaims, his words cradling the crowd within the temporary auditorium we have created.
Eyes open, I am overcome by a symphony of colour, as placards printed with ‘Love is Love’ and ‘Vote Yes’ obstruct my view of the stage.
I had been standing at the station for no more than 10 minutes when the train came bounding seamlessly towards us on the tracks. Headphones in, blasting a Spotify playlist entitled ‘Love is Love’, I was more than ready to engage with the rally occurring in a few hours’ time. More and more people arrived just in time for the train doors to open, donned with rainbow flags, shirts and faces.
The symbol of the queer community was being worn so proudly and unapologetically, which solidified both my own resolve and excitement for the rally.
Leading up to the rally, I naturally ease my overwhelming anticipation by engaging with queer theory and representation- not that common? Ok, moving on.
I remember reading a HRC report titled ‘The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down- LGBT Bullying and Exclusion in Japanese Schools.’
The opening narrative read as follows:
“In the world there are some weird people,” my high school health teacher said to introduce the lesson. Then she said sex between boys was the main cause of AIDS so we should stay away from homosexuals. That was the only time I heard about LGBT people from a teacher—except when I overheard them making gay jokes.
–Sachi N., 20, Nagoya, November 2015
Caught up in the cacophony of political debates, and social battles, I was completely blinded from my own privilege. In a country where we are campaigning for marriage equality, at least we have the representation to warrant a campaign.
Completely at a loss as to how Japanese society engages with queer culture, I took to google to find out. As someone who is a proponent of equality and representation, I was upset as to how little I knew about this side of the world. Enthralled by the litany of online sources on the topic, I took notice of a familiar, recurring word; manga.
But if manga were a destination, it would be the north pole and I would be the south. I knew nothing, and that only furthered my curiosity.
For those who are asking similar questions I did, manga are essentially Japanese comics which have their own specific drawing style. Manga lends itself to a variety of topics from historical narratives, fantasy, and superheroes. Although manga has a very specific and unique style, it is not so much a genre as it is a format.
Japanese youth can find themselves seriously lacking in accessible information on LGBT issues, so they turn to alternative, escapist, fantasy literature to enter a world where queer people exist openly. Both manga and its animated version, anime, are places where transgressive behaviour is allowed or lauded and they’ve long been places where gay love stories are portrayed.
Although manga has been revolutionary in providing an escape for LGBTQ+ youth seeking out alternative narratives to the ones that they routinely see, there was one key issue that became rather abruptly apparent.
Seated within the quiet section of the library, already a whole Reddit thread deep I stumble upon a new word; yaoi. Apparently emblematic of quintessential queer manga, I click the link in a haste, eager to find out more.
With a page closed fast enough to warrant a Guinness World Record medal, it was apparent that overtly sexualised ‘boy love’ content was a firm part of queer manga.
This issue is something that I am curious to address.
Although shocking, I did not let this deter me. Surely the queer community was not packaged into a fictive recreation of a pubescent boys mind (?!). Before long, I stumbled across Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura no Hentai (2012).
The similarities between the two were endless- manga form, tackled concepts regarding trans* identity in Japan, and completely foreign to me.
Growing up, I was never introduced to comic book culture. The bridge between comics and manga was not all too long, but I had never accessed either side. The images, text, composition and flow were so unlike any book that i have ever read that at times I was forced to pause as i decided which text bubble I were to read next. If my initial motivation were to have not taken place, it would be safe to say that i would have never interacted with the medium.
However, there’s no denying the enormous popularity of manga – an industry valued at $5 billion in annual Japanese sales. The fact that it’s read widely at every level of Japanese society and that people have respect for their manga heroes makes it a really effective vehicle for delivering positive messages and giving LGBT issues substance and respect. In fact, manga and anime provide such accessible media for young people to explore an alternative world free of society’s prejudices that the Human Rights Watch has created its own manga series.
This style of queer expression, in a context that often subverts the ‘unordinary’, has positioned itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences. With regard to the queer representations that I am used to, its positioning within a culture that often shrouds it in stereotypes which are rejected, and even my own (non-existent) interactions with comic/manga culture, it is obvious that I am stepping into uncharted waters.
My digital artefact will aim to investigate the role and function that manga has in facilitating queer representation, culture and improving general queer ideologies within the country.
Ashley, K 2015, An Introduction to Manga, Greek & Sundry, viewed 2 September 2017, http://geekandsundry.com/an-introduction-to-manga/
Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 2 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues
Peterson, B 2015, Japan’s Trans-Friendly Comic Book Revolution, Foreign Policy, viewed 3 September 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/30/manga-transgender-rights-japan-lgbt-anime-comics/
Utagawa, T 2016, Japan LGBT Manga 2016, Human Rights Watch, viewed 3 September 2017, https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photo-essay/2016/05/04/japan-lgbt-manga-2016
Wilson, B 2003, “Boys’ Love,”Yaoi and Art Education: Issues of Power and Padegogy, Visual Cultural Research in Art and Education, viewed 3 September, 2017, https://www.csuchico.edu/~mtoku/vc/Articles/toku/Wil_Toku_BoysLove.html
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.
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.
Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(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 Journal, 15(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.
Everything about my life is a product of western culture.
Objectively, this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise given my Australian upbringing.
Now it gets a little concerning when my only engagement with varying cultures, specifically Asian culture, has come from a completely Western viewpoint. Films like The Last Samurai and Lost in Translation, although presenting themselves as thinly veiled avatars of Asian culture, are still predominantly constructed with the western gaze in mind.
This exposure, or lack thereof, has been profoundly influenced by my cultural context. Growing up on an Australian farm during the early part of the 21st century isn’t exactly an ideal scenario for contact with culturally diverse images and messages. This not only affected the frequency with which I came into contact with these varying modes of media, but also the way in which I interacted with them when I finally did so.
(director Ishirô Honda on the set of 1954’s Godzilla)
Take for instance Ishiro Honda’s cult classic Gojira (1954). Western audiences have spent more than half a century interacting with Godzilla as no more than a comical, far cry from the horror films constructed in Hollywood lots and locations. The monolith of Godzilla is viewed, still by many, as a joke dinosaur in a rubber suit. The overly histrionic sound effects and visuals all play into a highly-constructed camp backdrop that has western audiences viewing the film as no more than a bit of Japanese ‘trash-culture’. Even my years as a communications student did not make me immune to the comical scrutiny that I placed upon the film, commanded by my own cultural frameworks.
— Kurtis Hughes (@KurtisLogan) July 26, 2017
But constructing Godzilla as the harbinger of a man-made apocalypse isn’t just another attempt at securing audiences who are drawn to high-impact scenes like moths to a flame. The film is a sober allegory intended to shock and horrify an adult audience. The use of startling images – cities in flames, crowds in panic, helpless armed forces – would have unfortunately been all too familiar to the cinemagoers who less than a decade before would have experienced the key themes of survival and death depicted within the film. This is further developed through the highly poignant script which posed deliberately provocative questions about the use of nuclear power, and post-war power struggles.
My own cultural upbringing in the 21st century unfortunately created an initial disconnect between myself and the film. Like many blockbuster hits that I am accustomed to, I viewed Godzilla as no more than a fictive construction deployed to entertain audiences. But as the film continued on, and focuses narrowed in, it became hard to ignore the reality of the tragic story of nuclear paranoia presented before me.