Week 5

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.

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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.

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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 

 

CLAUDIA MULLER: INDEPENDENT DIGITAL ASIA AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/09/11/claudia-muller-independent-digital-asia-autoethnography/

Ola mi amigos, time for another autoethnography project!

Utilising autoethnography as an approach to research can reveal qualitative insights into areas that may go amiss with traditional research methodologies, made evident by the hundreds of BCM students to pass before me. I can particularly see how the process assists many in Digital Asia, encouraging students to view Asia as ‘another’ rather than ‘other’ through immersing themselves into the culture or point of interest. This week, we were tasked with selecting a specific area of Asian interest to become literate in, prompting an account of our experience with a topic, text, product, service or platform of our choosing, to be broken down into a field site, a data type, speculative research area, and a communication format.

Now, if you ask me what the one thing of interest I have about Asia that I have yet to look into and better yet to barely begin to understand, its cosplay. I have always been aware of its existence and acknowledged its seemingly large following purely from interactions online, but with friends recently getting into it and my club having several interactions with the Universities’ Cosplay society, my interest has been peaked. Although, I was particularly curious to understand cosplay surrounding a broad spectrum of fandoms, but also that which surrounds styles adopted from Studio Ghibli. I’ll get to how I got to this point later in the blog, but growing up I didn’t get the chance to watch much anime at all, I was rudely informed only at the ripe old age of 20 that Winx Club was actually Italian and very much not anime (although it did apparently have a cult following in Japan in the 2000s).

Despite this, in high school my two best friends agreed that we should all watch the others favourite movie. While I picked Gatsby and our friend Tom picked Casino Royale, we were very lucky that our beautiful friend Georgie showed us Howl’s Moving Castle as hers. It was the beginning of my love for Studio Ghibli films. I have seen it twice more since that first movie night, and I have seen a few other cult favourites over the years such as Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service to name a few. Each and every time I have fallen in love with the illustrations, the colours, the settings, and the ability of the films to transport you elsewhere. This may stem from many years of art classes growing up, or from my studies in Design throughout uni, but I can never let my mind pass over the images without admiring them.

So here we are. Combine a need to understand and know more about the world of cosplay and an appreciation for the style and aesthetics of a studio’s animes and boom. You’ve got yourself a project. Not just any project, an

~** i n d e p e n d a n t   d i g i t a l   a s i a   a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y **~

The thought of tackling cosplay in a project like this is daunting to me, and it isn’t necessarily the idea of dressing up that scares me but the act of putting yourself in a vulnerable state perhaps? It is definitely not the costumes themselves, as I have always been fond of them for their excessive nature and the likeness to the imagination. I taught myself to sew growing up, and I was forever making weird and wonderful pieces that weren’t practical for everyday use. Most of which I have never shown anyone. I am curious, nonetheless, of cosplayers confidence when in character – I will make a very generalised assumption that it’s the ability to be someone who you are not that allows it to bloom, but who am I to know for sure? This fear of vulnerability may be perfect for this particular project, especially with the intended methodology. Ellis and Bochner (2006) support autoethnography ought to be “unruly, dangerous, vulnerable, rebellious, and creative”. My interest in anime, similarly, most likely stems from an appreciation for illustration and art; I was always drawing growing up.

Which brings us to the breakdown of this research project. I needed to set myself some guides as my mind does tend to wander when it comes to research, particularly ethnography.

Experience/Field Site:

  • Cosplay + Anime: wearable pieces?

Data Type

  • Reactions + feelings during experience
  • History and insights on cosplay
  • Physical clothing items and created pieces:
    (HMC) Calcifer earrings, skirt?
    (HMC) Sophie’s hat
    (HMC) Sophie’s dress
    (HMC) Howl’s wings – dress/top
    (Akira) Kaneda’s red jacket
    (SA) No face earrings or patch

Research/ to Speculate

  • Speculating that the fashion and aesthetic of anime often translates into cosplay which is a high level of commitment, is there a middle ground?

Communication & DA Format

  • Instagram account with vlog-style stories and photos to post. Photographs of alike finds, videos of creating processand/or blog posts to accompany.

To kick the project into gear, I began by creating an Instagram account (@cosplaystudies) to detail all of my data in a curated means, and begin to work my way through the topic. I started by looking for inspiration and put my ‘feelers out there’ but trawling through s o   m a n y   hashtags across Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr to see what people were actually cosplaying as. I feel that I mustn’t let my own preferences get in the way of understanding cosplay as a whole, rather than a specific alley of the culture itself. A true testament to the ability of autoethnography, as Rachel E. Dubrofsky & Megan M. Wood (2014) dictate “privilege participation in the form of self-reflexivity and active fashioning of the self” can act as an extension of the data or rather as a constraint. A starting point nonetheless, there’s much more to be investigated. I am most looking forward to getting to what I hope to be a very tactile part of the project.

 

That’s all for now,

Claudia

Dubrofsky R. E., Wood M.M., (2014) Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2014, pp. 284

Ellis C., Bochner A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, pp. 433.

The Overzealous World of Anime Food

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As a connoisseur of fine – although technically take away – food I can safely say I have had my fair share of experiencing different foods from a number of varying cultures. All be it the often-watered-down western version of these traditional dishes that are either delivered along a sushi train or in a paper bag in a takeaway container. Never the less I’ve always been open to a wide array of different foods and open to trying new dishes despite my stereotypical Australian tastebuds that would often take a glass of milo over most other drinks or actual food.

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One particular facet of international cuisine that I take a particular interest in is traditional Japanese food. Growing up out west over the blue mountains there were never any Japanese restaurants or small sushi hubs – or really anything other than old Jaza’s bakery and pie shop – for me…

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Akira: A deep dive into the tortured soul of Japan

 

DISCLAIMER
*Back in week three, I viewed Akira both in class and at home. I was so thrilled at the ending, I decided then and there at 1am, to write down my thoughts (1.) This piece is an extension, and development, of those thoughts.*

Akira left a particularly strong impression on me. A self confessed film buff, I am yet to properly delve into the world of Anime, and could not have asked for a better introduction. With an deeply symbolic plot, beautiful musical score and rich animation (years ahead of it’s time,) unpacking it’s many layers could constitute an entire book in itself. But personally for me, the autoethnographic process saw me perceiving and analysing this, both due to my background in film, and as a product of a privileged Western upbringing,

Coming from my background, a viewpoint rooted in Western cinema, Akira is somewhat of an enigma, not only stylistically but also structurally.
Budget wise, when 8 number figures are tossed around, films backed by large amounts of money are usually marketed to the common denominator – Take Marvel Studios for example; and their tendency toward big budget transmedia production, mass marketed to successfully reach deep into the pockets of the world’s teenage boys (2.)

As a result, It is quite unusual that a high budget film takes stylistic and conceptual risks, grappling with themes of the human condition, nuclear devastation and imperialism (usually left for the low budget and the indie) but when coupled with the ability to afford beautiful artists, animators and musicians, sophisticated ideas are given the presentation they deserve – and identify with the viewer, right down to their core.
Maybe it’s my tendency to dabble in film snobbery, but I often find myself shaking my head at the amounts of money thrown at your standard cookie cutter, high action blockbuster, and (what I feel is) it’s it’s incredible wastage. It is wonderful to experience a film of incredibly high artistic quality, with not only money, but thoughtful art direction behind it.

But financial management and creative competency aside, it the the film’s dark tone, coupled with vivid scenes of violence and destruction that truly drew me to Akira. Japan’s wartime history obviously lends itself to exploring themes of nuclear violence, not only in the political sphere, but also the visual; a morbid fascination with the imagery of destruction. One only needs to look as far as 1988 film ‘Barefoot Gen’, and it’s famous scene, shot from the perspective of the ground, in Hiroshima on the 6th of August (3.)

I talked of this in my previous piece, but as a young white man, safe in his Australian bubble, I am not often exposed to the true horrors of human nature –  and to immerse into scenes of mass destruction is an experience seldom felt by myself or my peers.
Jed Smith (4,) a favourite journalist of mine, has written extensively on the idea of lived experience. “Without a lived-experience, we are unable to understand or truly empathise. So what’s important is to find some way those sensitivities can be acquired.”
Akira was an especially earnest and powerful experience as it allowed me, lucky enough to have lived a life predominantly free of suffering, a window into the experience of someone literally watching their world fall down around their ears.

As a medium to convey lived experience, Akira hit the nerve for me in two key ways.
Firstly, I watched the tortured character of Tetsuo descend further into madness and anger, before being enveloped by his power, begging for the help of those closest to him. Followed the final scenes of Neo Tokyo, bathed in light before it’s end spoke to me on a level further then imagery, themes or metaphor… For the first time in my life, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination, at just how devastating mass destruction can be, both on a large and individual scale.

(1) Isaksson N (2018.) ‘Week 3 – Akira.’ Digital Asia, August 10, 2018.
Accessible at: https://digitalasia.blog/2018/08/10/week-3-akira/

(2) Admin (2018.) ‘Avengers: Infinity War and the Marvel Marketing Machine,’ Flickering Myth, March 12, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2018/03/avengers-infinity-war-marvel-marketing-machine/

(3) Kuroihitsuji (2017.) ‘Hadashi No Gen – Release the Bomb,’ Youtube, Feburary 14, 2017.
Accessible at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D22kzf_bDvg&t=1s

(4) Smith J (2018.) ‘An Idiot’s Guide to the Australian Class System,’ Monster Children, March 7, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.monsterchildren.com/71836/idiots-guide-australian-class-system/

Alternative Ulaanbaatar

As suggested by Ellis et al (2011) this blog post is written to analyse my personal experience to understand Mongolian hip hop. I have had my initial experience of listening and watching a couple of music videos on Youtube, but has this really given me a full understanding? No. Not at all.

To really understand in an ethnographic sense the cultural significance hip hop has in Mongolia I really have to do some research into certain parts of the practice. In this blog post I will be exploring hip hop as a cultural practice, the significance of music culture in Mongolia, traditional throat singing and where that fits in and how this all ties into the cultural act of hip hop in Mongolia. By the end of this hopefully I will have more of an understanding and reflect on the possible transformative epiphanies I hope to have with this experience. Everyone else is having them, I want in on that!

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What is Hip Hop?

So to begin this exploration into Mongolian hiphop one must know what the hip hop ideology is in itself and how the Mongolian society embraced it for themselves.  Hip hop has been a cultural phenomenon in countries around the world specifically in African American culture. The roots of hip hop have been in African oral traditions, passed down through slavery and then through a way of social commentary (Blanchard, 1999). The appeal that hip hop had on a society that had been in the grips of a soviet backed government called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was massive.
The MPRP had attempted to isolate Mongolia from the outside reaches of the west but alas, the curiosity of youth will prevail. Illegally circulated music and items piqued the youth of Mongolia’s interest and as MPRP realised, they did not have the power to stop it all together. They invested in their own brand of popular music and created bands to create their nationalistic music (Marsh, 2010). This only lasted as long as it took for technological and communications to evolve and for popular culture from the ‘West’ to seep in through media as well as influences from a struggling economic and political climate to create a window of opportunity for the young Mongolian population to move on.  Mongolian artists turned hip hop into way of exploring and announcing their societal and cultural problems and issues (Marsh, 2010). This is the essence of hip hop and Mongolian hp hop is no different, it just has a different sound and face. 

Music in Mongolia and Traditional Throat Singing

The Mongolians have been known as “a people of music and poetry.” Their singing, sonorous, bold, passionate and unconstrained, is the true reflection of the temperament of the Mongolian people. (China.org.cn, n.d.)

Mongolia has a rich and deep musical history. When one thinks of Mongolia one might think of the image of a nomad perched on the top of a mountain that is sprinkled with snow, surrounded by… goats? Singing but not in the way you and I might sing. A throaty, raw and echoing call. It’s not the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of modern Mongolian music but there are those who are blending this ancient act into the new music culture.


In my ethnographic research the first and foremost group that stood out to me was Fish Symboled Stamp. They are a Mongolian hip hop group that incorporate their traditional throat singing or “Koomei” into their songs (Campbell and Singh, 2017). The undulations of the Koomei mixed with the 4/4 time stamp of heavy hip hop makes for a seriously confronting sound. But instead of just listening to their sound I know I needed to go deeper into what a Mongolian hip hop group write about, why and how it is received in Mongolia.

Mongolian hip hop artists are writing in this modern age about the cultural themes and  values that they are observing through their lives where they live. Hip hop for young Mongolian’s is a creative way to express ‘one’s self, angst and perception of life, which requires no ghetto-like background or experience” (Wallace, 2015). Here is where it gets a bit hard due to the language barrier, of how to find out what artists are writing about. As explored in Marsh’s article there have been groups that rap about women, alcohol and money and even “imitating” African American rappers, but this has not been welcomed by some in the hip hop community (Marsh, 2010). But most that have been translated by Marsh have been regarding the social and economic issues that relate to their communities and society. In history, Mongolian music is made up of songs about stories, epic tales, love and nature. Songs particularly pertaining to horses, historical events and legends (Hays, 2016). In an interview with the artists Bataar and Odsaikhan in Fish Symboled Stamp, they reveal that their lyrics are dominated by their culture including Mongolian history and legacies (Campbell and Singh, 2017).

My Epiphanies Regarding Mongolian Hip Hop 

I’ve realised throughout this research whilst listening to the music I’m engaging with, that it’s more than what’s on the surface. To understand why this music style is so popular, it’s more than just the type of music. It is the content, the lyrics, the meaning, the cultural significance of using the throat singing and the context of the artists in Mongolia. I’ve realised that I am so constricted by my own language barrier that exploring into a different culture and therefore language has barred myself from fully enjoying and ‘getting’ the music. I feel like to appreciate the music, you really need to realise and understand that there is a cultural significance to the words and feelings.

But again, I realise through this research and this language setback, is that I’m so white and ‘western’. I take for granted that the music that I surround myself around usually is english based. I get the lyrics, I can sing along without getting the words wrong, I get the language and 9 times out of 10 I get the meanings.

 

References

Blanchard, B. (1999). THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAP & HIP-HOP CULTURE. [online] Web.stanford.edu. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Campbell, J. and Singh, K. (2017). Mongolian melody: Hip-hop duo splices traditional singing and urban beats. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-music/mongolian-melody-hip-hop-duo-splices-traditional-singing-and-urban-beats-idUSKBN1AE011

China.org.cn. (n.d.). Ethnic Groups – china.org.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/shao-2-mongolian.htm

Hays, J. (2016). TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN MUSIC | Facts and Details. [online] Factsanddetails.com. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub88/entry-4593.html

Marsh, P. (2010). Our generation is opening its eyes: hip-hop and youth identity in contemporary Mongolia. Central Asian Survey, 29(3), pp.345-358.

China and its Cosmetic, Cruelty Free Future

We are so blinded by our obsessions to consume and wear makeup, always trying to upkeep with different brands and different styles created by markets. We forget to stop and think about where exactly these products are coming from, and who is suffering in the process. Media has always portrayed the beauty industry as being illustrious and something to aspire to, yet for years has neglected how animals have been used to ensure the success of our brands. In recent years, there has been an immergence of understanding amongst the public about how animals are being tested on so that the products that hit our shelves won’t harm us.

 

We live in a technological age where, new advances in non-animal testing is becoming increasingly more accessible. It is reaching the point where we now have suitable, and in some cases more successful alternatives to animal testing. PETA often funds research into non-animal testing options such as, the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS). See here for more information.

 

The Australian cosmetic industry is far from being totally cruelty free, but it made me think about other countries such as China, and what the standard for animal testing is there. I will also glance into this issue from a Public Relations and Marketing perspective. This is because I have a personal interest (as a PR & Marketing student) in how these shape and influence the issue.

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Source: Gentleman Marketing Agency 2016

The intention of this research was to personally learn more about a topic I would usually avoid and widen my perspective on animal rights, through a case study of the Chinese cosmetic industry. Up to this point, I have not actively searched Animal Rights issues and ignored cases regarding animal right violations. As an autoethnographer, I am using this opportunity to discover more about myself through learning about another cultures interaction with a global issue.

 

This topic is unknown territory for me, as I have never found myself questioning or even thinking about the cosmetic animal testing that occurs within China. Let alone the worldwide issue that comes to hand with this topic.

 

It lead me to some very basic Google searches, such as “Animal testing China”, and “China Cosmetic Industry”. Surely enough, this helped me gain a basic understanding of the nature and laws surrounding the cosmetic animal testing regulations.

 

I discovered that, up until 2014, all cosmetic products created and imported into China had to be animal tested by law. But in 2014 the China Food and Drug Administration stopped requiring tests for ordinary cosmetics (make-up, skin, hair and nail care products and fragrances) produced in the country, and allowed these manufacturers to choose alternatives to animal testing. Products manufactured overseas and sold in China, as well as special cosmetics, like sunscreen, all still require mandatory animal testing to be released onto the Chinese market (Care2, 2014).

For the Chinese consumers who are conscious of the impact their choice of product has and are interested in purchasing cruelty free products, it was not possible up until this point. It was the first step for animal activists in opening the cruelty free cosmetics market in China. Up to this point, consumers were being misled into thinking that they were purchasing cruelty-free products.

In terms of the Marketing process of these products in China, I discovered a marketing agency called the Gentlemen Marketing Agency, based in Shanghai and specialises in creating “solutions to develop your Brand in China, cosmetics, Beauty, Health care and pharmaceutical companies”. The agency focuses on creating a firm relationship between foreign companies and Chinese consumers. I was particularly interested in this agency, because of its blogs discussing animal testing on cosmetic products in China. They are against the use of animal testing in the cosmetic industry, and explain their support for the announcement that China will no-longer require international cosmetic products to be animal tested. The blog also calls out companies such as Avon and Mary Kay re-starting their animal testing in order to “grab a larger market share” (Olivier, 2017).

 

The changing of regulations, that has been ignored by companies, highlights how important it is for consumers to shop wisely and inform themselves. This is to ensure that they do not support companies that have the opportunity to use non-animal testing but choose not to. This does not just regard the Chinese market and Chinese consumers, but all international markets and their consumers. There is also a need for more Marketing and PR agencies to stand up against large cosmetic companies, by creating campaigns to deter consumers from supporting animal tested product.

 

This research has taught me that we all have a part to play in supporting cruelty free products, so that we create a market share large enough that forces companies to use non-animal testing.

 

References: 

Gentleman Marketing Agency 2016, ‘I am not A Goods’, image, Cosmetics China Agency, viewed 8th September 2017, here

Gentleman Marketing Agency 2017, Welcoming Gesture of China for non-animal tested imported cosmetic products, Cosmetics China Agency, viewed 8th September 2017, < http://cosmeticschinaagency.com/welcoming-gesture-china-non-animal-tested-imported-cosmetic-products/&gt;

Graef, A 2014, It’s Official! China Ends Mandatory Animal Testing for Cosmetics, Care 2, viewed 8th September 2017, < http://www.care2.com/causes/its-official-china-ends-mandatory-animal-testing-for-cosmetics.html>

PETA 2017, PETA Funds Non-Animal Methods, PETA, viewed 8th September 2017, < https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/us-government-animal-testing-programs/peta-funds-non-animal-methods/>

Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1

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.

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Source

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.

References:

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

Dirty DU30?: Analysing Presidential Propaganda

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, is undisputedly one of the most controversial political leaders in the modern world. Although attaining heavy criticism from multiple other world leaders, especially relating to his stance on “the war on drugs”, why is it that he is still preserving such strong public acceptance from his people within the country and those abroad?

I have found it very hard to begin writing this post, struggling to find my standpoint on the issue of whether or not President “DU30” Duterte is the right candidate to lead a third-world country in our contemporary world. I find it a very heavy topic to write about for a number of reasons:

  1. With my mother being Filipino, and my father being Irish, although I have grown up in the Philippines for months at a time every other year, I feel like maybe I may not be sufficiently immersed in the culture to form a concrete political opinion on the matter, considering the social and cultural climate. This realisation has been quite morally problematic for me, considering that as a dual citizen, I was required to vote in the Presidential campaign of 2016.
  2. I have the political consciousness of your average University student in the Australian political climate. And one that is very much below average in the Filipino political climate.
  3. Although not well-versed in Filipino politics, I can have very strong opinions on what needs to be changed in the society to cater for those not in positions of privilege. These opinions have been formed from witnessing first-hand the endurance of the lower class.
  4. I fear the opinions I create may not rest well with those who do not completely understand the nature of Filipino society. Inversely, I fear that some opinions may offend Filipino citizens, and be dismissive of their political conscience.

So, with the knowledge that I do have as a dual citizen of the Philippines, I will explore digital sources of Duterte’s political propaganda and attempt to decipher how it affects me, and how it would possibly affect the people of the Philippines.

I will define ‘propaganda’ as ‘information intended to persuade or convince people’ (as per the Oxford University Press Dictionary, 2nd edition), and I will be looking mainly towards his speech videos or podcasts.

Duterte was inaugurated as the 16th Presidente ng Pilipinas on 30 June 2016 at the age of 71, making him the oldest person ever elected into Presidency. He received a trust rating of 91%, the highest rating since former President Marcos’ dictatorship. The former Mayor of Davao promised policies of poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, the reclamation of territory, greater transport and infrastructure, and a strong anti-drug campaign.

My mother is a strong advocate for Duterte, to the point where if we ever see a photo of him, we jestingly exclaim, “mum, look it’s your boyfriend!”. Last year, whilst staying in the Philippines for three months, my mother would regularly read or watch news of President Duterte on her phone, so when she ran out of mobile internet data towards the end, I was beyond relieved. Until she decided to invest in a radio. So, I am not foreign to the support behind President Duterte, but endeavour to look deeper into the reasons why this is so.

The first source I looked to analyse was President Duterte’s Inaugural Speech of June 29 2016.

One of the first things I notice about this speech is the almost entire use of English throughout the whole speech. Of course, this is beneficial to me, as although I can understand Tagalog and Bisaya, I can grasp a deeper understanding of the speech’s content through English. This makes me wonder, however, how big the language barrier may be for the people of the Philippines, because even though English is very well understood by most, they frequently use the term “nosebleed” to describe a lack of comprehension when English is used above a conversational tone.

I think what Duterte does well here is address the need to overcome corruption “in the high and low echelons of government”, and how the erosion of faith and trust in government, the judicial system, and public servants is a problem that needs to be confronted. The Philippines has historically been a nation of heavy official corruption, as the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2016 identifies the country as ranking 101 of 176 countries measured from ‘very clean’ to ‘highly corrupt’ with number 176 being the most corrupt. Duterte also uses a lot of emotive language to humanise policy considerations, and appears very grounded by reflecting on all classes of people in society; rich and poor.

I admire Duterte’s career accomplishments, but as a law student I am not sure if I agree with his notion for those to mind their own work and he will mind his own. He advocates for transparency in government, but how can accountability exist if critical thought is not encouraged? Further, he emphasises his adherence to due process and the rule of law as uncompromising, and I will definitely focus on these elements of jurisprudence when analysing more political propaganda of his administration.

Another thing that I noticed was Duterte’s almost utilitarian, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, Aristotle’s natural law approach to government, saying that love of country and the subordination of personal interests is important to ensure the common good. From what I have heard of the anti-drug campaign in the international sphere, this statement could be the backbone underlying his battle in the war on drugs.

I look forward to analysing more of President Duterte’s political texts, gaining further knowledge of the operations of the Filipino government, understanding the level of domestic and international support for his administration, and developing my political conscience of a country that has played a huge role in my upbringing.