Autoethnography: A personal account

Autoethnographies are the result of merging autobiographies, where an author recounts their past experiences and ethnography, the study of a culture and what defines it and its members (such as values, beliefs and practices) for the purpose of educating others.

Ellis (2011) defines autoethnography as an approach to texts and situations that aim to examine personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This unconventional approach challenges the norm when it comes to research as well as adding an emotional element in the representation of others and culture. Autoethnographies are written to produce didactic and confrontational content regarding personal and interpersonal experiences to educate and enlighten audiences.

Autoethnographies can be viewed as the relationship between authors and audiences via texts and stories that are complex and meaningful to teach morals, unique ways of thinking and help people make sense of themselves and others.

‘Akira’ (1998) is an animation, action, sci-fi film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and a movie which I found highly engaging at that. It is not a movie that I would generally be interested in due to its manga style animation although its dystopic setting is amongst my favourite genres. In my viewing of the film, I found it hard to apply an autoethnographic approach as I could not identify anything  about it as personal to me.

Reasons I found the film hard to relate to:

  • The story line was interesting but at times I found not chronological and therefore hard to follow and understand which detracted from my ability to relate to characters.
  • The Japanese Manga style of animation also encapsulates extreme graphic visuals which are not human such as tentacles and uncanny human features so this also made me find the text “weird”. This has a direct correlation though with my heavily Westernised way of thought and what I deem as normal or weird.
  • The film also doesn’t show equality amongst genders with males being both the protagonist and antagonist and women playing supporting roles to the strong, heroic men. The character Kaneda is the strongest female character in the entire film and is still sexualised as Kei’s love interest. This is a common theme that also is prominent in Western texts.

Upon watching this film, it only reinforced my pre-existing view of what Japanese culture is which I have formed through, word of mouth, popular culture and mostly through online content such as YouTube videos and articles. As a stereotype, the Japanese are known for their gentle nature but extremely out their interests such as Lolita’s, music genres, game shows and hentai. I find that I am still not drawn to Japanese texts such as these although it was highly engaging, educational and entertaining.


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