Weekly Post

Weekly blog posts

Auto-ethnography of my auto-ethnography

Cooper's Blog

Is that title confusing? Good, because so is conducting an auto-ethnographic study.

Looking at my previous post discussing my own auto-ethnographic study undertaken during the first few weeks through this subject, and comparing my statements to some key points in the Ellis et al. (2011) reading , I am able to understand that struggles and conclusions I’ve reached in my own Auto-Ethnographic experiences are similar to some that have been shared by other researchers past and present.

The first such parallel I noticed in my discussion about interacting with other classmates during the live-tweeting exercises. Similarly to this, Ellis et al. (2011) note “when we conduct and write research, we implicate others in our work”, thus leading to a collaborative process either by association or by intentional contributions.

A further parallel can be found in Ellis’ assertion that “Critics want to hold autoethnography accountable to criteria normally applied to traditional…

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My Autoethnographic experience

Cooper's Blog

BCM320 was a confronting subject for me. It interested me due to the technological advancements a lot of Asia hold over the western world, however having to essentially perform a study of myself and my own experiences isn’t something I’m particularly familiar with.

Because of this, the first few weeks of the subject were essentially a learning experience for me, discovering how to reflect on my own experiences and compare them to a culture being represented on screen through our live-tweeting experiences.

I was certainly no expert, but I did manage to find a way to compare experiences from my own life to those being shown on screen, and interact with my classmates through the hashtag during the live-tweeting exercises.

By the time our viewing switched to Akira, a film I had previously…

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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

 

More About Mukbangs

Although mukbangs originate in South Korean digital communities, they have recently expanded into the global mediascape, as discussed in my previous post (my last post will be frequently referenced throughout this post, so it might be a good idea to check that out first). Despite having a limited knowledge about ‘Digital Asia’ prior to this subject, I had come across the phenomenon of mukbangs on YouTube. Albeit, not the South Korean version, but the Westernised version. (more…)

Auto Ethnographic Analysis

My Auto Ethnographic Analysis of Blog Post 3 – JAPANESE IDOLS 

It is quite safe to say my reaction to Japanese Idol culture, which is exhibited in my Blog Post 3, was one of a shocked and somewhat appalled student.

Why did the culture that surrounds Japanese Idols have this effect on me? Why did I take the mistreatment of these people thousands of miles away somewhat personally?

The notion I will focus on draw from Blog Post 3 as an auto-ethnographer, according to the Ellis et al (2011) reading is how my ‘epiphanies’ have shaped my perception and reaction to this culture. This refers to “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same” (Ellis, 2011.)  Earlier in the blog I referenced American teen Idols to draw comparison between these Idols and Japanese Idols. These celebrities were idolised by me in my younger years when I was impressionable and searching for belonging. They are familiar to me and I feel comfort if I am to think of them.

To draw a comparison between something comforting, familiar and warmly nostalgic to me and a culture and movement that I have only learnt about in the last week presents insight into my confused and shocked reaction. The examples I drew to attempt to  outline distinct differences between the two cultures actual reveal quite the opposite. For example, my explanation of Japanese Idol fanbases being “brain washed” and “naive” in a very judgemental tone. Analysing this from an auto-ethnographic stance, my tone was caused by my own naivety. I gave Justin Bieber as an example of Western teen Idols, with the knowledge of this Idols history with fans and cult followings, which is extensive. However I still used this very strong language when sharing my opinion on Japanese Idol fan followings. This could be construed by my failure to accept a culture that is unknown to me although major similarities can be drawn between it and a culture I know very well.

I draw no memories from Japanese Idol culture as I have never had any encounters with it, making it new and strange to me. Perhaps it was my lack of epiphanies that lead to my understanding of this culture to be absurd and foreign.

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

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 

 

JAPANESE IDOLS – Blog 3

 

AKB48_2017.jpg

 

The topic that I’d like to focus on for my auto-ethnographic study in blog post 4 is ….  Japanese IDOLS – a whole movement I had no idea existed before BCM320. Frankly, it’s a little unbelievable and absolutely crazy to me. I feel disconnected and far away from Asia and its culture even more so than what I did before after learning about this. The production and upkeep of Japanese Idols is like a very exaggerated and blown up version of Western culture teen idols.

A 2003 Hilary Duff, a 2011 Justin Bieber or a 2007 Ashley Tisdale. They were all teen Idols that were looked up to and admired by younger fans. I can’t deny that I believe there was media training and image shaping involved to keep up a shiny public performance by these young stars when they were teens. HOWEVER, the culture surrounding Japanese Idols is absurd compared to this.

Hollywoods teen idol creations are nothing at all like Japans. The measures that are taken by supervisors and managers of Japanese and Kpop idols to display them to the media and ultimately the world as young, pure and flawless are extensive and fatal. They’re marketed and manufactured like products to what seems a crazed and quite gullible fan base. They are majorly influential and drive their audiences crazy.

“An idol is a reflection on society, a picture of the ideal Japanese young citizen, and as such their image must be flawless” (JAPANINFO, 2019.)  How is this fair for anyone in this situation besides the suits thats are making millions off them? Brainwashing a young, naive fan base into blindly and obsessively following and worshiping every thing these idols do. What they wear, what they eat, where they go and how they do certain things. It seems like there is an extremely high bar of expectations set by society for these idols not just to strive for but to overtake and stay above in order to keep their career, fans and friends.

Unable to sing about or relate to lyrics that imply anything remotely romantic or sexual as the idols have to be inexperienced in both of these departments to be marketed as pure. If media uncovers news of an idol having a secret relationship their career is over.

AKB48, an insanely popular and successful girl idol group in Japan is an example of this. As of 2018, 134 girls complete this idol group, all of which constantly competing against one another to rise in popularity, ultimately advance their status within the group.

As this is all just a tad twisted and I KNOW Hollywood and the Western music industry isn’t peachy clean when it comes to celebrities and teen idols but Japan is a whole new level and I’m not here for it.

 

‘Exposing the Dark Side of Being a Japanese Idol and the Japanese Entertainment Industry’, JAPANINFO 2019, FOUND AT <https://jpninfo.com/12837&gt;

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.”

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