Autoethnography is a challenging research practice, as it is often too easy to fall into a comparative mind and not fully appreciate the culture on its own, this bias will cloud the authentic experience. Throughout the course of the semester for BCM320, I have felt quite uncomfortable with the autoethnographic process as I have struggled to not compare and forcing myself into deeper critical analysis of my own epiphanies. I still feel that I have a lot of learning to do to increase my own research process but do feel I have improved and become more aware of cultures outside my own. I have had several key references that have helped me grow with the new research style.
Idea Formation and Methodology:
I was uncertain about how to approach the DA, within many elements, I wanted to select a topic I would feel comfortable with, however something that still challenged me to think critically about another culture. I decided upon watching a Japanese romantic anime, I am familiar with romantic films, but anime is a genre I have extremely limited exposure to, so I felt I would enjoy this experience. I scrolled through Netflix “anime” tab and selected at random, I clicked into without even reading the synopsis so I couldn’t overanalyse too much before.
For my methodology, I wanted to keep it fairly simple so that I wasn’t overwhelmed with the process and unable to successfully document my experience. I have live-tweeted in the past so felt this would be an effective way to document my thoughts, and also encourage further analysis as I knew it would been seen by others, I wanted to dig deeper and ensure that if others came across my thread, and they were outsiders like myself, they would be able to gain some sense of my experience and insight into the Japanese culture. (You can access this in my DA- my previous post that will be linked below in the post as well)
Once I had watched the film and collected my thoughts on Twitter and formed my epiphanies, I decided to present my findings and DA as a blog post. I felt this medium would allow me the opportunity to showcase my research, as I wanted to attach photos and videos of the braided cords to help create a clearer picture for viewers, so it was a platform I felt comfortable combining all my research in to have a completed DA I was happy with.
You will find the DA on my blog at: https://amandataitwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2020/11/13/weaving-cultural-connections-through-braids-an-autoethnographic-project/
Key Auto-Ethnographic References:
As noted earlier, I struggled throughout the semester to become comfortable with the process of auto-ethnography and so I heavily relied on reading articles to attempt to improve my understanding. There were several key references that helped clear my understanding and assist in making my DA stronger. Some included:
- Ellis (2011) was the first major text that I engaged with throughout this learning process, it introduced a lot of key concepts and highlighted what ‘auto-ethnography’ was for myself and how clear structure to assist me throughout. This article helped me understand what an ‘outsider’ was and shaped me as I knew that is how I would be recognised within the Japanese culture for when I was researching.
- Roulston (2015) helped me understand the difference between general research and auto-ethnographic research and how it changes a person for the better in the long-term because its challenges us more emotionally rather than purely academically. I also felt this text assisted me through clearing up how to adjust my writing to become more direct when dealing with a cultural setting and maintaining an academic approach
- Kout and Yacine (2019) provided me with a strong sense of how to approach my research from an objective perspective rather than falling back into habits of my own bias. This was used before I began my DA prep (watching the film) and I feel this was a great tool as it outlined how an individual needs to recognise their selves within their culture and their roles within it. This make me reflect on my cultural backgrounds and understand what my current bias were and by recognising them being able to push them aside for my research
- Kien (2013) was a strong article that deepen my understanding about epiphanies and the role that played in my learning and research process. The biggest aspect of auto-ethnogaphy I felt was what I deemed epiphanies, I felt as if I wasn’t connected enough to form them but after understanding that epiphanies can come in different forms for different people, I felt more comfortable approaching mine.
Additional References for Cultural Analysis:
I struggled to find academic articles relating to this topic to help further my research, as noted in my DA, the history of the braided cords is considered under-documented and I experienced this in relation to journals. I was fortunate to find information using media articles and websites of professionals who engaged in the art. There is a large community, both within Japan and outsider, who have dedicated many articles and websites to communicating the meaning and history of the artform. These next in particular helped my understanding and appreciation:
- Bright Side (2020) provided interesting information regarding the myth of the ‘red string of fate’, which played a huge part in shaping the direction of my DA and understanding of the relationships within Japan,
- Japana Home (2019) was my key reference when first researching and understanding what the ‘kuihimo’ was, it helped clarify what they were and how they have been used throughout Japanese history
- Kumihimo website was another key reference point for me when starting, it allowed me to understand the history of how the braids are made and the way in which methods have adjusted over the years
These references were where I personally felt my epiphanies were able to be explored and understood more and lead my direction, along with additional references which are provided in my reference list.
Reflecting on Process:
Now that I have completed my DA and I look back at what I have presented, I am proud. I feel I have progressed a lot from when I started in the way that I have researched and understood elements of the Japanese culture. I have definitely gained a deeper appreciation for their emotional and spiritual connections to each other and overall have better control over my bias. I would still call myself an outside of the culture as there is so much more for me to explore and connect with, but I feel more comfortable with my cultural understanding.
My reflection on my project is that braids have deep meanings and are versatile beyond the hairstyle I had also associated them with and that Japanese cultures uses beautiful symbols to help represent deeply spiritual aspects of their culture to display to both insiders and outsiders their hearts.
Autoethnography is a great tool to self-reflect whilst learning and becoming more aware of others around you. I feel this process is challenging but rewarding when being able to find a sense of place and familiarity within a culture or be excited by the new elements that allow for deep epiphanies to shape society.
Bright Side, 2016, “The Red String of Fate: a beautiful Japanes legend”, BrightSide, viewed 5th November, https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/the-red-string-of-fate-a-beautiful-japanese-legend-140105/
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
JapanaHome, 2019, “Kumihimo- The Japanese Art of Silk Braiding”, JapanaHome, viewed 6th November, https://japanahome.com/journal/kumihimo-the-japanese-art-of-silk-braiding/#
Kien, G, 2013, ‘the Nature of Epiphany’, International Review of Qualitative Research, vol 6, no 4, viewed 5th November 2020, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271788470_The_Nature_of_Epiphany
Kout & Yacine, 2019, “Breaking Down the Enchantment: A Critical Autoethnography of Video Gaming”, The University of North Carolina, viewed 6th November, https://search.proquest.com/openview/71a0329ba0aa9f801dae9667bddf16d4/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Kula, 2019, “Throwback Thursday: Fun Facts About the Origin of Kumihimo”, Interweave, viewed 7th November, https://www.interweave.com/article/beading/kumihimo-origin-facts/
‘Kumihimo’, n/d, ‘How to Get Started’, Kumihimo, viewed November 2020 https://kumihimo.com/
Made in Japan Magazine, n/d, “Ryukobo- Traditioin and Renovation of Japanese braid-making”, Made in Japan Magazine, viewed 10th November http://shoku-nin.org/09_ryukobo/
Manga.Toyko, 2016, “Making a Kumihimo from the Anime” ‘Kimi no Na wa’, Manga, viewed 7th November, https://manga.tokyo/report/report-on-making-the-kumihimo-from-kimi-no-na-wa/
Nishioka Samurai’s Armer and Braider Studio, n/d, “Japanese Braided Cords”, Google Arts and Culture, viewed 6th November, https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/%E2%80%9Djapanese-braided-cords%E2%80%9D-by%C2%A0nishioka-samurai%E2%80%99s-armer-braiding-studio-tachibana-museum/GAIi8e97r03CLw?hl=en
Raskin-Schmitz, n/d, Japanese Kumihimo, the art of silk braiding’, Kumihimo, viewed 10th November 2020, http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/index.html
Roulston. K, 2018, “What is Autoethnography”, QualPage, viewed 6th November, https://qualpage.com/2018/11/15/what-is-autoethnography/ Suzuki C & Segaway, 2010, “Kumihimo: Kyoto’s art of braided cord”, the Kyoto Project, viewed 7th November, http://thekyotoproject.org/english/kumihimokyotos-art-of-the-braided-cord/