“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, et al, 2011). In simpler words, the way we view a culture is reflected on our own perspective and cultural background.
Come to think of it, I did have a chance to practice autoethnographic methodology last week as I used my personal framework and cultural background to reflect on my understanding about a Japanese film, Gojira. When I watched that film in class, I was searching for the similarity between Japanese pop culture and my own culture and simultaneously analysing those cultural values that I have already been familiar with to understand the meaning of this foreign film, despite the language barrier that existed in the film itself.
As a matter of fact, we tend to relate something foreign to what we are familiar with or feel comfortable to discuss about. This week in Digital Asia class, I have another opportunity to view another Japanese film ‘Akira’ (1988) and attempt to understand the film as a cultural text based on my understanding in autoethnography that I learnt this week.
Regarding Akira, I rely on my own cultural experience and background to express my understanding about the dystopian society that was reflected in the film. Akira reflects a Japan that was filled with criminals and social evils during and after the world war II. Drawing on my cultural experience and background, I can relate to the reality of the society in Vietnam during and after the Vietnam war, when there was chaos going on in the society and the whole country was full of war crimes and our government had to deal with it.
One thing I notice about autoethnography is that, my classmates’ perspectives towards this film are quite different from mine. I think it is the difference in cultural background that separate me from the rest of the class, most of them are Australian. While I often relate Gojira and Akira to the tragic history of my country as both Japan and Vietnam suffered from many wars in the past, my fellow classmates relate these two films in very different points of view. This has drawn me to the conclusion that: even when people share the same cultural background, the discrepancy in upbringings, religions, age and other ethnographic and demographic factors also determine one’s understanding and perspectives toward a foreign culture. I have also realised that, the more cultures an individual are exposed to, the more comfortable and easy for them to understand the context of a foreign culture, in this case, Japanese pop culture, through the autoethnographic approach.
Ellis, C, Adams, T.E, and Bochner, A.P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. , <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>.