Weekly Post

Weekly blog posts

SOUL SEARCHING: ETERNAL EPIPHANIES

Since initially embarking upon my study of Hinduism and the religion’s highly spiritualised death and burial practices, I have begun to experience many moments of epiphany. Coming into the research, I clearly had very little understanding of Hinduism or religious death and burial ceremonies, yet here I am 3 weeks later completely intrigued by diverse religious practices throughout the Asian continent.

Autoethnography has confused me, excited me and challenged me throughout the semester. However, it was not until I began to immerse myself in Hinduism that I began to realise how powerful autoethnographic communication can be. As Ellis et al. (2011) highlights, autoethnography ‘expands and opens up a wider lens on the world, eschewing rigid definitions of what constitutes meaningful and useful research’. It is this widening of one’s lens that ultimately defines the course of study, in turn representing the diverse nature of cultural interpretation. Thus, it is within the framework of personal description that I must analyse my own experiences, in the form of epiphanies and reflect upon how influential my cultural framework is in defining my research. It has become increasingly apparent that my experience will greatly differ from others. Therefore, it is important to use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders’ (Ellis et al. 2011).

As previously touched on in my third blog post, my Western, atheist cultural background has somewhat blinded me in regard to global religious cultural practices in the past. However, through further research and engagement with Hindu death practices, I have begun to really develop an interest in the religions profound understanding of life and death. Upon first engaging with the video in my third blog, I was taken aback by the public spectacle of the burning of the dead, however, as I further delved into the cultural meaning of such practices I began to deeply reflect upon how diverse human nature and understandings of life can be.

Hindus hold the belief that supreme beings watch over a cycle of reincarnation, whereby, their soul becomes eternal and enters a spiritual realm, only to return to the physical realm in a new physical form. Thus, it is the idea of Karma that has continually caught my attention. My mum has extensively travelled India, thus I think it has been her description of the Indian caste system that has ignited this interest. Within Indian Hindu culture they socially stratify society into four categories (plus ‘outcastes’).

indian caste pic

Whilst this system acts to hierarchically stratify society and has been outlawed, the conceptualisation of reincarnation within Hindu culture in many ways supports its continued functioning. Throughout the Western world this system is highly criticised, yet within India, society still believes that one’s good or bad fortune (Karma) no matter their caste, will ultimately determine their social status in their next life. This leads me back to the burning of the dead. In Hindu culture, it therefore becomes apparent that the body could in fact be described as ‘the prison and the soul in being held prisoner for the sins of the physical self’, thus when the soul leaves, the physical body merely returns to the elements of earth. This epiphany has proven highly significant, my initial Westernised reaction toward the ‘intense (cultural) situation’ (Ellis et al. 2011), experienced upon first watching the public burning ceremony, has transformed into one of cultural understanding.

As Kalyanamalini Sahoo (2014) describes in his extensive description of Hindu religious practices, the funeral rites are of great significance. However, as I have personally discovered, it is not the physical body, instead the soul that is accorded significance (pg. 32)

Hindu funeral rites are performed at various stages linked to death:

(a) As death approaches; (b) For the disposal of the body; (c) For 12 days following death to transform the departed soul into a preta (i.e., ‘spirit’) body; (d) One-year memorial to assist the departing soul to reach pitru-loka; and (e) Annual Memorial Day in honour of the ancestors.

Also, I have always thought that this system of reincarnation continued forever, however, whilst watching the video below, I realised that this process continues until one’s soul ‘attains perfection and becomes one with the Divine’. This concept is not readily talked about online, thus with further research I aim to delve into it and assess its reliability.

My personal experience thus far has been extensive. Already, I have clearly begun to experience cultural epiphanies and I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in one of the most diverse Asian religions. I am yet to personally experience the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple in Helensburgh, however, I am still planning on doing so and capturing my experience whilst I’m there. I’m looking forward to communicating my experience with you further and can’t wait to experience many more epiphanies along the way.

Until next time…

Reference List:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P, 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1

Sahoo, K 2014, ‘Rituals of death in Odisha: Hindu religious beliefs and socio-cultural practices’, International Journal of Language Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 29-48

 

We Talkin’ K-HipHop BABY – Week 5

I grew up in a very musical family, and have played music since I was 5. I started actively listening to music for leisure when I was about 16, and when I was about 20 I started listening to hip-hop. And I mean a lot of hip-hop. J.Cole, Drake, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Kendrick, Vince Staples; I was amazed by their lyricism, the message(s) they tell or don’t, the vivid imagery they can sculpt through words. And just how damn cool they sound whilst doing it. Around this time I discovered S.Korean artist Zion.T.

His smooth vocals and his sexy and funky RnB sensibilities really appealed to me, and it stood out amongst (at the time) a predominantly “plastic pop” sound of the famously more popular S.Korean Kpop artists at the time (talking Girl’s Generation, Big Bang and Wonder Girls). His sound was more in line with the Justin Timberlake’s of my preferred era of pop, which I link to my upbringing in Australia listening to the So Fresh Hits compilation albums of popular music from the early 2000’s (shout out to So Fresh tho).

I fell in love with KHipHop through discovering the South Korean talent show, Show Me The Money. It’s like X-Factor or American Idol, but for S.Korean rappers. I grew up watching talent/variety shows with my family (they’re super popular in China) and Show Me The Money resonated with me because of that. If anything, Show Me The Money is a culmination of my investments and interests in Asian media today as an Australian Born Chinese person; Asian representation within media, hip-hop, talent shows, and just really excellent music.

However, this is drawing an interesting conversation of culture and the ownership of culture. Keith Ape was accused of cultural appropriation in his viral hit song “It G Ma”, claiming it was appropriating black culture in the US.

And to be honest, those claims aren’t unfounded either. Cornrows/dreds, grills and ice (chains/bling) proliferate not only the music video of It G Ma, but of the hip-hop culture in S.Korea. Check out G2’s dreds that he’s quite infamous for:

One can push the argument further to say that the fact hip-hop exists and is being created in Korea is already a form of cultural appropriation too. The line between “cultural appropriation” and “cultural appreciation” is a murky one, and I’ll be honest, is not one I’m comfortably well-versed enough to answer. I doubt many are.

I don’t want to end on a note of “well we should all accept that transaction of culture is a great and beneficial thing for all of us” because I don’t believe that to be true, at least within the confines of how capitalism works. There are people and key stakeholders who gain from the transaction of culture, and not everyone is invited to have a slice of that pie’s profit. With hip-hop succeeding pop as the most consumed genre of music in the American charts for the first time ever in 2017, it’s not a surprise that it’s made waves in Asia. But out of that success, who are the ones to benefit from it? Has hip-hop transcended itself to be a cultural product beyond a single culture? I want to say yes. But I also acknowledge that I don’t have the right to.

 

Keiden Cheung

 

Autoethnographic Experience of the Fan Culture of Idol Dancing

I’ve never left Australia, so my experiences with Asian culture have only been from the internet and my social circles. I’m in the cosplay community, a term which originated from Japanese journalist Nobuyuki Takahashi while in Los Angeles for a science fiction Convention, but my friends and I attend almost every convention in cosplay. The conventions are almost always filled with comic books, pop culture merch, anime, manga. Many of my friends in social circles are inspired by Japanese fashion and Japanese culture, I also have a few friends who have learnt the language.

Thanks to online streaming services such as Netflix and Stan, before even starting BCM320 I had already watched some Asian tv-series and films, not counting anime which I almost grew up with. Most recently, however, my most autoethnographic approach to the digital Asian topic was going to watch my friend’s idol dance in Sydney at a convention. A couple of weeks ago I attended a small convention in Sydney called Chibi Beatz, run by Yokai Beatz. At this convention, there were a few small stalls with trinkets, art, jewellery and clothing, Including KamiFox who I tweeted about.

Chibi Beatz also included some performances by some of my friends, Project:VRI and Will-O. They were cosplaying and dancing to Vocaloid songs. Not for the first time, but at Chibi Beatz, I joined the fan culture for watching Idol or (Vocaloid in this case) dances.

Untitled

Project:VRI (Anaristya) and Will-O-Wisps

In my experience, the fan culture for idol dancing is insane. They are incredibly enthusiastic and loud, screaming to every beat of the song. I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as them but I was screaming for my friends constantly, I didn’t have a light stick with me this time but I have previously used one during one of my friend’s idol performances. It is common in Idol dancing culture it’s common to change the lightstick culture to the colour of your favourite idol and wave it to the beat of the song.

lightstick

MewsAU Instagram, ‘Light your penlights these colours”

A couple of my friends are also in a dance idol group called MewsAu, who mostly perform at every anime-themed convention. They are original a Love Live/Jpop cover group based in Sydney. This was my first experience into the fan culture for Idol dancing since the fan groups are usually bigger at larger conventions and Chibi Beatz was not a large convention. I can’t imagine the thrill of getting up and dancing in front of a live audience, which is why I love going to support my friends cheering them on.

This is just a video from Neko Nation where Mews Au performed last year, I’m waiting until my friends post their own footage so I can put it here. In this video, there is a clear evidence of screaming and lightsticks though!

References:

Sarkar, P. (2016). History of Cosplay. Geeks.media. Available at: https://geeks.media/history-of-cosplay

PuddingFloss and KristyLeighCosplay in the featured Image

SOUL SEARCHING

I’m not going to lie… digital artefacts freak me out. A self-professed analytical sociology student who loves to write essays hears those two words and internally screams. Add ‘autoethnography’ into the mix and it turns into a full-blown external scream. Yet here I am, having overcome my initial panic I can confidently say that maybe a new experience will be good for me…

Digital Asia has proven to be an eye opening, culturally immersive subject so far. Personally, I came into this subject with minimal knowledge about Asian platforms or films… or anything really. So why not take this opportunity to immerse myself in the holy waters of autoethnographical research and truly engage with the idea of experiencing a new culture.

One of the oldest and largest religions on the Asian continent, Hinduism not only blends thousands of years of practices and traditions, but accounts for 25% of Asia’s religious affiliation. A whopping 80%+ of the Indian, Balinese and Nepalese populations cite Hinduism as their main religion. Hinduism as a diverse, ancient religion is far too extensive for me to cover, instead I aim to delve into the religion’s death and burial rituals still readily practiced throughout the Asian world and on our doorstep here in Wollongong. As will become clear, my current knowledge regarding Hindu practices is minimal to say the least…

I have always been fascinated by the photographs my Mum took when she visited Nepal in the 1990’s. Captured on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River, they depict the Hindu tradition of the burning of the dead. These images are representative of my first ever personal experience with Asian religious death and burial customs, thus I hope that through personal engagement with these cultural practices, my experience can be further enhanced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So where to start? I did what every other curious person has ever done and whipped out that trusty google search bar. Low and behold, Helensburgh is home to one of the most famous Hindu temples in the Southern Hemisphere. The immersion of oneself into an authentic cultural experience is a crucial aspect of autoethnographical research (Ellis et al. 2011), hence the discovery of and plans to visit the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple in Helensburgh will prove to be a fundamental aspect of my cultural experience.

Note: This video depicts the burning of the dead.

My initial experience of Hindu death and burial practices through digital sources has been quite eye opening. The Pashupatinath Temple, depicted above, is Nepal’s most famous Hindu Temple, situated on the Bagmati River in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Culturally, these customs are so far removed from the typical death and burial practices I have experienced in Australia. The burning of the dead in public places was initially quite a confronting experience. However, through further research I discovered that within Hinduism death is in fact not viewed as the ‘end’, instead the person’s spirit is freed, and rebirth occurs (soul searching… (just like me!!)). It is amazing how diverse religious practices are around the world, I have often turned a blind eye to them (being the atheist I am), however, as of late I have started to really become intrigued by cultural practices, that thanks to globalisation and the flow of people, have spread on a global scale. Thus, I ultimately hope to really delve into and understand how life and death are viewed within the Hindu religion, compared and contrasted to my own (atheist) experience.

The ultimate goal of this digital artefact is to analyse my personal experiences and hopefully many epiphanies through visiting the temple and immersing myself in online YouTube video sources and academic/news sources. In an attempt to truly understand and communicate this diverse cultural experience with you, I am considering incorporating photographs and self-reflexivity into either an auto-ethnographic vlog or blog series.

Maybe this digital artefact business won’t be so bad after all…

Until next time… 

– Abby 

 

Auto-ethnographic Viewing: Akira

Cooper's Blog

Our third screening for BCM320 saw us live-tweeting during a screening of revered Anime film Akira. I had seen this film once before but many years ago, and had little memory of it so was essentially viewing this with fresh eyes.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at a more in-depth definition of autoethnography. As defined in the Ellis et al reading, “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, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005).

In terms of looking at this film under the microscope of authoethnography, I attempted to view the film in comparison to my own experiences and in line with Ellis et al’s (2011) methodology “When writing anautobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences.”

View original post 291 more words

AKIRA: My First Anime Experience

So far, BCM320 has proved to be a subject full of ‘first times’ for me. In week 1, our screening of The Host was my first experience with Korean film, and this week was my first time watching Japanese anime. Our week 3 screening was Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira (1988). While neither of the screenings thus far would be my typical genre of choice, I am enjoying the gentle exposure to the diversity of Asian media cultures. (more…)

Akira And The Rest

It was not a new experience for me to be watching an animated film as I have watched many previously before Akira. My Neighbour Totoro and Akira are now tied in the place of ‘oldest anime film*’ I’ve watched (film* not anime series), which still isn’t very old, yet they are both award-winning films. And I can see why, Akira was different. Definitely not the strangest anime I’ve ever watched, Miyazaki has some pretty elaborate films and some animes are known for being ‘out-there’ i.e. Elfen Lied or Goblin Slayer that both come with warnings attached.

My_Neighbor_Totoro_-_Tonari_no_Totoro_(Movie_Poster)

I’m no stranger to ethnography either. I’ve previously taken BCM241, where I studied the Esports community and the language that came with that. Ellis describes ethnography as studying “a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture” (Ellis, Adam & Bochner, 2011) Watching Akira it was interesting to think about the culture that they were portraying of Japan, many peers accounting that it was unlike the stereotypical ideas of the country they had previously seen.

Autoethnographers, however, “must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies; they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.” (Ellis, Adam & Bochner, 2011) From my understanding (mostly from what biographies and autobiographies are) Ethnography is looking in on another culture why autoethnography is being apart of the culture itself. Now I can’t say I’m a part of any Japanese biker gangs or any laboratory experiments, but I am an anime fan.

fruits-basket-2019-reboot-op-1166973-1280x0

Anime only recently drew me back in with the remake of the old anime and complete manga series Fruits Basket (which is absolutely perfect by the way), but I have watched a range of different animes in the past. I am a person who is open to any anime, but it depends mostly on the art style. If the anime is too cartoonish like Panty and Stocking or Lucky Star I will find trouble watching it. Akira was borderline on the art style I like and dislike, but since the story and colours were so beautiful I had no trouble getting into it. Overall Akira was one of my favourite movies to have watched in a BCM class, especially since it was a mix of sci-fi and anime.

Akira-Remake-700x300

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

Akira and Asthma

After signing up for BCM320 I saw we would be watching Akira as part of our assessment which of course made me happy! As a fan of Anime and the dark gritty future of Cyberpunk, it had me excited to share this experience with my peers (even though I was too busy watching the film).


In this week report the focus is on Autoethnography. According to Ellis et al., (2011) Autoethnography is the approach to research and writing in a way that describes and analyze personal experience to understand cultural experience. It challenges standard ways of research and takes bias, political, social and culture into consideration. The process of Autoethnography draws on past experiences to help write as well as epiphanies to remember moments that had significant impact on a person.

When I was younger, I was never a big fan of anime, but had seen 1995 Ghost in the shell (Anime > Live action), Neon Genesis Evangelion, and of course Dragon Ball. I never really did reconnect with anime until a few years before when my friend forced me to watch Koe No Katachi with them and it made me seek for more anime with great feels.

1988 Akira is a Cyberpunk anime directed by Katsuhiro Otomo which sets plays in Neo-Tokyo of the year 2019 (This year!). It’s a dark gritty film with superpowers, corrupt “governments” (we all know corporations run everything in the Cyberpunk world) and the desire of power.

I must admit, I did not pay too much attention to the live tweeting during the film, but I did go through what the class was tweeting at the time. There was a lot of comparison with films such as stranger things and blade runner. Having not seen films such as Stranger things it has left me with my imagination of people with superpowers in a real-life setting. Blade runner would be closer comparison due to the Cyberpunk setting, but I do believe Akira is a much darker Cyberpunk setting that is still trying to rebuild after the events of WW2.

In the film there is an exploration of religion and the need for power/independence. Throughout the film Tetsuo claims that he does not need saving and that now he has powers others could beg for his help. My interpretation of these multiple scenes is that it explores the desire to have power in a world where you are surrounding things that will continue to push you down. Crime, corruption, hate continues to pull you down in an already broken-down world. (Hey that’s how i feel).

Another interesting point I would like to bring up is that during one many of the intense scenes during Akira a song would be played which has a similar sound to dark chanting. The Akira’s soundtrack is called “Battle against clown”. Coming from a religious background and having to been a monk for a week, these chanting from the film rings a few bells. My interpretation is that the citizens of Neo-Tokyo has a burning desire to see their lord Akira return. Or you know… it could just be that it reminds me of my Asthma after a run.

Before writing this report, I did some research on how some viewers felt about the film and it was a mix response. Some say they loved it and others say Akira was too violent with sexual violence. Akira explores themes from a dark fictional Cyberpunk world which contains violence of all sorts such as terrorist bombings, killings, and sexual violence. In a Cyberpunk setting, there is little to no laws and crime is infested within the streets as we see in Akira.

Cyberpunk and Anime has been rooted within me and is now a big part of who i am. Because of Anime I’ve taken up studies of the Japanese language and made new friends through anime. The Cyberpunk setting has always interested me and if i was given the option to swap into a cyberpunk like world i would. (Maybe not the Akira’s Neo-tokyo but rather Ghost in the Shell universe)

Akira has made history and will always be regarded as one of the best films ever made.

Reference

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

AKIRA – IN CLASS VIEWING

 

AKIRA

Watching Akira was an interesting experience for me! I don’t particularly watch Anime … and what I mean by that is I’ve only seen ‘Spirited Away’, like every other Australian millennial that would rather play Nintendogs over Pokemon. The class reacted to the film really well and facts about the Anime film’s background and production process filled the Twitterfeed. I tweeted a couple thoughts that stemmed from my observations. I tweeted that “Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s vision for 2019 is interesting“, which it was. Yet another dystopic portrayal of the “future”, which scarily enough, in this film, is this year. From the films we’ve seen in class, I believe that it is a popular trend in Asian films to present the future as dark, with a ‘post-apocalyptic’ nature. 

Maybe it was just me but I felt like if I spent too much time focusing on tweeting about something that happened in Akira, I wouldn’t pay attention to important dialogue or plot points and had to catch up by reading the plot online. It is not a movie, in which, you can lazily fall in and out of following and still understand exactly what is happening. There are a lot of characters and a lot of things happening all the time. In saying that, the motorbike scenes where very entertaining, who doesn’t love a ‘Fast and the Furious’ element to a movie! (Don’t worry, I’m aware of how white I sound.) I did mention this in my tweets aswell. “Kaneda defies gravity flying off and onto motorbikes #BCM320 . Very visually stimulating!” 

In other news in BCM320/this blog, the class must display their understanding of an auto ethnographic methodology. According a to Ellis, Adams and Bochner it is a form of research “that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (2011).

To my understanding this is methodology in which the cultural, political, social and personal background of a person performing research on a topic is all considered and noted in the findings and results.

It is the combination of:

Autobiography – an account of ones personal experience.
Ethnograph – observations found through ethnographic research methods.

“When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity”  (Ellis et al. 2011). This is an efficient way to collect data, however requires the researcher to be completely open about the elements of their life that may have affected the data they accumulated.

Ellis C, Adams T E, & Bochner A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1 <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>

 

 

 

 

AKIRA & AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

BCM320 has opened up a wholeness experience within the last couple of weeks in class. We have been consistently watching films of differing genres and cultures to what I am used to and live-tweeting our thoughts and reactions to each film. The reason in which we are partaking in such behavior is to explore a form of auto-ethnography. 

Before beginning this class I was unaware of auto-ethnography as a concept, however through class content, but more specifically the reading ‘Autoethnography: An Overview” I have established a better understanding of not only the concept of autoethnography but also how evidently present it is in everyday life. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) describes the concept of autoethnography as ‘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, 2011)’. Essentially it is a method of research that uses personal experiences to facilitate a better understanding of culture through differing cultural experiences. 

This week in BCM320 our film we were to watch and live-tweet about was Akira. A highly-acclaimed Sci-Fri action anime film directed Katsuhiro Otomo and written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto. Akira is a film about A secret military project that endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath who can only be stopped by two teenagers and a group of psychics

This film was unlike anything I have previously watched, with anime being a new experience both culturally and visually with animated movies not being a familiar genre. I found the film hard to follow due to the viewing being dubbed rather than the use of subtitles as I found the English didn’t line up in certain parts and that the film lacked the Korean/Asian inspiration I was expecting. However, watching the film was adventurous and I thoroughly enjoyed the visuals and the vibrant psychedelic colors used throughout the film.  While participating in the live-tweeting I was researching into the film to find that the film serves an inspiration for many people such as Kanye West’s music video ‘Stronger’ and ‘Stranger Things’

I found the film, Akira to be a positive introductory experience into the world of Anime and while I found my lack of Asian influence and experience in the anime genre affected my viewing slightly, I am open to experiencing further the world of anime extending my cultural experience with such Korean films and genres.