Every person is like every other person, but like no other person. The autoethnographer inscribes the experiences of a historical moment, universalizing these experiences in their singular effects on a particular life.
Here I am trying to take hold of this story that is somehow intertwined with my life but is also a scholarly work and I am sadly failing. I want to tell my story and for it to be meaningful and evocative and produce a work that Holman Jones 2005 describes as “analytical, accessible” and that “change[s] us and the world we live in for the better” (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). How amazing it would be to achieve these lofty heights but sadly at this point in time I’m not sure what I am trying to say and I feel confused and unable to go forward. It seems such a simple thing, to write an autoethnography, but somehow I have added so many layers to my original concept that it has become overwhelmingly complex. I am asking myself as Bochner in 2002 questions “How useful is the story?” and “To what uses might the story be put?” (cited by Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011) however I seem to have lost sight of my own personal narrative and what I was originally trying to convey.
Sarah Wall (2008) describes a state of ‘persistent anxiety’ around self representation while writing an autoethnography about her personal experiences related to the process of adoption and ‘was afraid that [her] readers would think less of [her] if they knew what [she] “really” thought’. In my current frame of mind I am certainly feeling some anxiety however I’m not so concerned with telling a story from my personal perspective and what my readers might think of me. No its not that! Right now, I’m more concerned with the act of writing a story that is ‘complex, constitutive and meaningful’ using my ‘personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience’. Heewon Chang (2007) discusses the important role of cultural connection and agrees with Ellis and Bochner (2000) that ‘the important mission of autoethnography’ is the method of ‘”connecting the personal to the cultural”‘. I should also be concerned with the readership, who they are? what impact the story will have upon them? and will the story fuel further conversation around the topic? (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011).
So I’m sure by now, you can begin to understand the genesis of my dilemma. Chang (2007) explicitly states that autoethnography should be ‘ethnographical in its methodological orientation, cultural in its interpretive orientation, and autobiographical in its content orientation’. This statement is very explicit and illuminating giving a clear guideline as to how an autoethnography should be undertaken. However I think my ‘block’ pertaining to the development of my digital artefact is concerned with the scope of the project as I have outlined it so-far. I stated in my last post that “I would like to learn more about not only anime, but especially the music of anime and how it is used to reflect Asian culture”. This in itself is a very broad topic. I had the idea of developing a digital timeline focusing on one or two anime per decade. In retrospect I feel that I have ‘bitten off more than I can chew’ and it is the enormity of the task which is overwhelming me. One of Chang’s (2007) ‘pitfalls to avoid in doing autoethnography’ is ‘overemphasis on narration rather than analysis and cultural interpretation’ and I feel that I would definitely risk falling into this trap if I try to cover too much ground. I think the other problem I have is not being decisive as to how I am going to collect data? and what are my field sites? I have thought about starting with anime from my childhood such as Astro Boy and Gigantor but perhaps these things are too personal to me and are preventing me from moving forward.
It may be more beneficial if I select something that I’m not so familiar with such as Cowboy Beebop of which I already admire the theme music, and study that in depth. I can still reference my experiences of childhood anime but let the research guide me as to the direction of the project. Delving into something new may still allow me to find my childhood voice but at the same time ‘gaining a cultural understanding of self that is intimately connected to others in the society’ (Chang 2002). Cowboy Bebop, after all is not anime for children and it is precisely this that I may be advantageous from an autoethnographic perspective. I will be watching and listening to something new to me and analysing it from my own cultural framework which encompasses my experience with anime all those years ago! A review of Cowboy Bebop celebrating its 20 year anniversary (its no spring chicken either) maintains that “[t]he show resonates so deeply because it’s a mirror in which you can see yourself, and how we all wrestle with life. This is what makes Cowboy Bebop great art”. I’m hoping that this is a good place to start.
Denzin, NK 2003 Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically, The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, pp.257–278, DOI: 10.1080/10714410390225894.