Non-normative genders in Anime Pt. 1

Through my small introduction to anime, I noticed a pattern in the depiction of gender ambiguous characters. It was particularly the character Grell, from Black Butler, that was the catalyst towards my epiphany that the depiction of gender fluid and transgender characters generally involved them appearing to be crazy, dangerous, flamboyant and as a comic relief.

Cue the comments from this clip:

Screenshot 2016-08-29 20.03.51

Screenshot 2016-08-29 20.04.29

Ok, so before we get into my digital artifact, let’s breakdown gender. Gender is a social construct enforced on us from the moment we are born and marked as ‘male’ or ‘female’. It shapes the way we are treated and the way we are taught to behave. There are many different societies and cultures that hold different values and norms around gender, so it can be constructed in many varied forms.

In the Western context, I know that systematic understandings of gender identity are in binary/cisnormative terms. Just look at the most recent census for Australia, where gender diverse, non-binary, and intersex people could not state their gender on the default forms. These systematic understandings shape cultural understandings, which means western media representations of trans and gender non-conforming (gnc) people are often extremely problematic. They produce misconceptions and misrepresentations about diverse identities, which cause direct harm to the lives of these individuals, such as the violence against trans women.

Therefore, when I see characters such as Grell, it concerns me that these problematic representations I’ve seen in Western media may also be part of anime and Japanese culture. I wonder if the portrayal of gender ambiguous characters are meant to be seen as a spectacle, as outside normative gender identities and roles, rather than normalised? And are gnc/trans characters in anime created to represent gnc/trans people?

I will note here that I have some knowledge of Japanese culture and how that affects the LGBTQ+ community, which I have attained through the autoethnography-based documentary ‘Gaycation: Japan‘ and a lecture I attended last year for SOC326 with guest lecturer, Mark McLelland,  which was also on aspects of the LGBTQ+ community in Japan.

Ok, now back to the digital artifact! For my autoethnography research project, I will be analysing the role of trans/gnc characters in anime and focusing on how I perceive these characters based on my context. I will then investigate the social and cultural structures of Japan that shape these representations, and analyse them in the same way.

After spending some time researching ambiguously gendered characters in anime, I have narrowed it down to three characters: Zoë Hange from Attack On Titan (2013-2014), Ruka Urushibara from Steins;Gate (2011) and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club (2002-2010).  I picked these three as I found they were widely discussed amongst online audiences, unsure of their gender identities. Their genders were also never clearly defined by the creators.

Haruhi Fujioka

Haruhi Fujioka. Image Credit: taysqueercritique Tumblr

Ruka Urushibara. Image Credit: ofhedgehogsandshadows, WordPress.

Ruka Urushibara. Image Credit: ofhedgehogsandshadows, WordPress.

Image Credit: Manga Therapy

Zoë Hange. Image Credit: Manga Therapy

For this project I will be a participant observer, my participatory role being watching the animes and noting down what I observe and experience (Ellis et al. 2011). I will also be taking on the role of performative ethnographer, confronting the binary/cisnormative constructs that marginalise non-normative gender identities. It is vital that I approach this autoethnography with a critical imagination, as a “commitment [to critical imagination] involves a rejection of the historical and cultural logics and narratives that exclude those who have been previously marginalised” (Denzin 2003). A critical imagination (much like intersectional feminism) is hopeful for change and hopeful for better representation of marginalised groups. I think it would be wise to enter this project with a critical imagination!

I will be accessing the anime series through AnimeLab, which is an Australian anime streaming service that launched in 2014. It is a legal and free service, however it comes with a catch: I can only access it through my Android phone and a free service only allows for subbed, not dubbed. My experience of watching anime has mainly been through dubbed versions, so it will be interesting to take on subbed. This way I will truly be removed from any connections to a familiar culture, considering dubbed versions have been said to ‘localise’ the original script more than subbed versions (See here and here).

I will watch a reasonable amount of episodes from each series and do a podcast for each. Talking points in the podcasts will include:

  • Introducing myself, providing my context, introducing the anime
  • Breaking down my understandings of gender and how that shapes the way I view the characters I will be observing
  • Analysing my assumptions, epiphanies and observations of the characters
  • Discussing research on Japanese understandings of gender identities, gender roles
  • How the Japanese context shapes the creation of the anime characters
  •  My thoughts on how these characters represent non-normative genders, based on my context and what I’ve learnt about Japan’s context

Next post I will re-evaluate my project proposal and research further into all things gender and anime. Stay tuned!


Biggs T. 2016. AnimeLab, Madman’s Netflix of Japanese animation, is free and growing, Sydney Morning Herald, available at:

Denzin N. 2003. Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically, The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 25:257–278, available at:

Ellis C, Adams T.E., & Bochner A.P. 2011. Autoethnography: An Overview, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1., available from

Safe For Trans. 2014. Ruka Urushibara: Steins; Gate, Safe For Trans Tumblr, available at:

Simpson C. 2014. AnimeLab Is How You Do A Streaming Video Service Properly, Gizmodo, available at:

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Sexual Violence in Pop-Culture

Trigger Warning: discussion of rape and sexual assault

The representation of rape in pop-culture is something I have struggled with over the years. Until very recently, I would argue that all depictions of rape and sexual assault in pop-culture are never necessary and should never be part of a storyline. And I came to that conclusion based on the types of depictions of rape I was seeing, the two standouts for me being the entire series of Game of Thrones and more recently in the formerly sex-positive show, Orange Is The New Black. My issue with these depictions stems from an awareness of the all too present rape culture that still saturates society and how that informs the problematic representation of sexual violence in pop-culture.

Rape culture, for those unfamiliar, is the culture of normalising rape and sexual violence to the extent that it is tolerated, excused and even condoned. It goes hand in hand with victim blaming, sexual objectification and the trivialising of rape and sexual violence. (I discuss rape culture in more detail in a previous post, which you can access here).

The main representation of rape and sexual assault that I see in pop-culture falls within this rape culture narrative, propagating this violence as a norm. For example, a common defense I hear when I talk about sexual violence in Game Of Thrones with GoT fans is that it’s an “accurate” representation of what society was like at that time in history. On the surface of this statement, I’m left asking, at what time in history were there dragons? And at what point did this fictional book become a historical piece of non-fiction? But when I look deeper at where this defense comes from, it’s a whole lot more worrying. It’s excusing sexual violence. It’s saying that in order to represent women, at any point in time, they must always face sexual violence. It’s part of the ‘woman experience’. And this is where it becomes problematic: this defense normalises rape and sexual assault (cue rape culture). And what truly annoys me about this rape culture rhetoric, is that while sexual violence is considered a norm, representation of women engaging in sex-positive acts, like masturbation, is either non existent, or heavily censored.

Game of Thrones normalises sexual violence by using rape as a plot device to progress character development, while simultaneously exploiting the experiences of sexual assault survivors. The most potent example of this was undoubtedly the scene in which Ramsay raped Sansa as a plot device to develop Sansa’s character. While this scene was unnecessary and exploitative, it wasn’t the first of the series. Back in season one, Drogo repeatedly rapes Khaleesi in scenes that are also exploitative and problematic.

Orange is the New Black on the other hand, started out as a very sex-positive show, which seemingly countered rape culture tropes by celebrating female sexuality. While there were still borderline scenes, like with Mendez and Trish Miller, exchanging sexual acts for drugs (which is a non consensual and abusive act), it wasn’t until the backstory of Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett that I became disappointed with the show. The multiple rape scenes were used in the same way as GoT, as a plot device to develop a character.

When the focus of this kind of violence is framed in a way that positions it as necessary for character development or to carry forward the plot, it removes any space for survivors to be treated with respect, sensitivity and empathy. After all, we live in a world where violence against women is still a major issue and should be treated as such when represented in pop-culture.

So, how did I change my stance towards representations of rape in pop-culture? Quite simply, it came down to seeing non-exploitative representations of sexual violence. Examples like Jessica JonesRoom, Mad Max: Fury Road and Into The Forest directly counter rape culture by framing this violence in a way that is sensitive and respectful to the survivor. They also served to condemn the perpetrator as committing violence that is represented as outside the norm. This shifts the perspective of the viewer from seeing sexual violence as a necessary evil to an unacceptable act of violence. Another way they counter rape culture is by making sure the focus on the survivors, their experiences of PTSD, and by representing them as women not solely defined by their assault.


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Asking about sexism, what’s the deal?

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Kristen Stewart sat down for an interview and was asked to nominate her feminist icons. The reporter then went on to list a few female actresses as examples. I initially found myself surprised when her response was to laugh and say “you’ve got angles”, before going on to criticise the media’s approach when talking about sexism and feminism. So I watched the interview again in order to understand what it was exactly that she took issue with. As someone who talks about feminism on a daily basis, I thought talking about it in this interview would be a positive thing.

But after the second viewing, it clicked. The problem isn’t discussing feminism itself, it’s the context in which it is discussed. Stewart was there to interview about an upcoming project she was in, and any chance to discuss that was replaced by talking about being a woman in the industry. And there it is: the direction of the question didn’t lead towards Stewart’s experience as an individual, but as a woman.

It was at this point that I realised how familiar this line of questioning was to me. In April, Grimes tweeted, “most annoying thing about my job: being asked about ‘music industry sexism’…media propagates sexism by portraying me as a victim rather than the successful producer that I am.” This was following an article from Rolling Stonethat focused on her experience as a woman in the industry, rather than the successful musician and producer that she is.



And most recently, comic Cameron Esposito discussed this line of questioning too in her new series, Take My Wife. In one particular scene, a white male radio host asked her what it’s like to be a woman in comedy, to which she sarcastically responded, “oh my favourite question.” In an interview about this scene, Esposito elaborated on her response, stating that questions of this nature aren’t actually about her role in the industry, but rather what it’s like to be a woman, full stop.

By asking about what it’s like to ‘be a woman’, the discussion gets stuck on the gender of the person, rather than their achievements as individuals. Identifying that they are women is sexist markedness, which comes from the simple fact that, as Cameron Esposito so aptly pointed out, “the majority viewpoint, which is straight white male, is invisible.”

Now this isn’t to say that talking about sexism and feminism isn’t still important, because it is. One’s gender does of course play a role in shaping their experiences in every aspect of their lives. The fact that women are so often asked about their experiences “as women”, and the unequivocal fact that we live in a male dominated society, speaks to that. But the context in which it is discussed is everything. For example, if you follow Grimes on social media, you can see that she has often spoken up about her feminism the sexism she has experienced. The difference is that she is in charge of this platform and the content that is shared. Cameron Esposito also often covers gender inequalities in her written material, which again, she is choosing to discuss.

When women are in charge of the way they share their feminism and their experiences of sexism, it comes from a place of empowerment and agency. When the focus of an interview is solely on a woman’s gender, it continues the cycle of sexism and we miss out on seeing the amazing things women are achieving as individuals – despite the inequalities we face.

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Culture of Proof and LGBTQ+ refugees

We live in a world where marginalised groups are constantly having to validate their existence and prove their identities. This ‘culture of proof’ phenomenon is saturated throughout social, cultural and systemic institutions and is hugely problematic for the LGBTQ+ community, where in this heteronormative and cisnormative world one is assumed straight or cis until they “come out” as otherwise.

And this culture of proof could not be more evident than with the way LGBTQ+ refugees are treated when seeking asylum. To be legally recognised as a refugee, LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are required to prove their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. This practice is accepted by governments across the globe, including Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States.

People who qualify as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention include persons forced to leave their country due to persecution, race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Can you guess which category LGBTQ+ people fall under?

Membership of a particular social group“.

This ambiguous categorisation is clearly problematic as it implies that their plight is a choice, with terms like “membership” and “social group”. This categorisation informs the painful process LGBTQ+ refugees have to go through in order to ‘prove’ that they need asylum.

After fleeing to the UK in 2014, Zimbabwean refugee Skhumbuzo Khumalo, who identifies as gay, was required to share intimate photos of herself with a sexual partner and answer a series of personal and invasive questions in order to ‘prove’ her sexuality. Following this, she was asked if she could just hide her sexuality and return to Zimbabwe (where homosexuality is illegal and considered taboo).

In Australia in 2016, Iranian refugees Nima and Ashkan, who both identify as gay, were placed in a detention camp in Nauru after seeking asylum in Australia. Despite being granted refugee status, they are still unable to come to Australia and instead have to remain in Nauru (where they have experienced violent homophobic attacks), move to Cambodia (where there are no anti-discrimination laws in place for LGBTQ+ people) or return to Iran (where homosexuality is illegal).

In 2014, Colombian refugee Eliana Rubashkyn, who identifies as a trans woman, sought asylum in several European countries, but faced rejection due to the fact that she did not have gender-confirming surgery.  She was eventually accepted in New Zealand, one of the few countries that does not require gender-confirming surgery in order to be recognised as your identified gender.

These few case studies reflect the persistent presence of ignorance that LGBTQ+ refugees face. The ambiguity of categorisation and the system of needing ‘proof’ is problematic, and it raises far too many questions. How do you prove your sexuality if you don’t have the materials needed (like photos) to validate it? What if you aren’t open in your sexuality and/or gender identity because you live in a country where it is illegal and/or intolerant to the point where your life is at risk? How would you ‘prove’ yourself then? Considering the laws are constructed within heteronormative and cisnormative foundations, what if your sexuality and/or gender expression isn’t even identifiable because it is not recognised by law? For example, people who are Intersex were only recognised by the UNHCR  in late 2011.

The categorisation that LGBTQ+ refugees are placed under and the process they must go through to ‘prove’ their sexuality and/or gender is simply unacceptable. It is a reflection of the broader heteronormative and cisnormative structures that pervade society and need to change.

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Autoethnography Exercise PART TWO: Critical Analysis

Following my viewing of Ladies Room, I’ve reflected on my assumptions and epiphanies from this experience. I’ve also read back on my first post in order to critically analyse my initial reaction.

Let’s start with my initial feeling towards the Ladies Room series – disappointment. While the series certainly had elements of feminism to it (discussing topic areas like casual sex, abortion, periods, developing independent lives/careers and centring around the friendship of two women), to me it wasn’t the “wild” show that it projected itself to be to a global audience (via Youtube), nor the “feminist stoner comedy” it projected to be to a Western audience (via SBS). I was also introduced to Ladies Room through it’s comparison to Broad City, and considering how relatively queer friendly Broad City is, I was particularly curious to see if Ladies Room would also go down that path…and it didn’t. 

Shreya Dhanwanthary and Saba Azad of “Ladies Room”. Image screenshot from Y-Films, Youtube.

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City” (Credit: Comedy Central/Lane Savage) Image sourced from Salon.

As an intersectional feminist, diverse representations in the media is important to me and I am far too often disappointed by how little I see of it. Specifically, I like to see diversity that is normalised rather than presented as a problem and/or stereotype (Bury Your Gays trope, inspiration porn and the white saviour complex, to name a few). So my initial disappointment with Ladies Room I struggled with, because on the one hand I valued the feminist content I was seeing, but on the other I wanted to see more.

With intersectional feminism coursing through my veins, I also visited India in December last year, an experience I found to be quite confronting on a number of levels. In fact, I looked to autoethnographies from other feminist white women who travelled through India to help make sense of and validate what I experienced (Tegan and Sara’s experiences and reflections really resonated with me). As I experienced quite a bit of misogyny in India, I was hoping viewing Ladies Room would help reshape my perspective of India. I am aware that my experiences are my own and cannot account for the many intersections that make up India. Despite knowing this, I expected Ladies Room to challenge and essentially erase the assumptions and judgements I had made from my experience. That’s a lot of pressure for one web series.

A warning from the hostel I stayed in, and an example of the different culture I experienced. Varanasi, Dec 2015.

A brochure from the hostel I stayed at in Mumbai. This brochure serves as a small example of how I felt constantly challenged by India…like the fact that the guide lived in the slum was a selling point to do a tour?! (I did not do the tour). Dec 2015.

Ladies Room was created by Mumbai based company Y-films, who describe themselves as a “dynamic, vibrant start-up at the intersection of films, creativity and youth culture that hopes to challenge the norm and detonate boundaries“. So what are the norms and boundaries that shaped the content of their web series Ladies Room?

As is the case across the world, intersectional feminist movements exist in India (Patel & Khajuria 2016). However, despite the presence of feminist movements in India, systematic discrimination is still prevalent throughout the country (Kumari & Joshi 2015). In TV shows and movies, women are generally portrayed as “submissive and sacrificing” stereotypes who are dependent on men, reinforcing negative traditional gender roles that do not acknowledge the diverse lives of women in India (Kumari & Joshi 2015Patowary 2014). 

Ladies Room actively moves away from these portrayals with their female characters. As director, Ashima Chibber, stated “you won’t hear these girls talking about their boyfriends or who dumped whom…they discuss their workplace, aspirations, promotions, colleagues and life in general“. The web series was released on Youtube with English subtitles, inviting in a global audience. I also found out the language they are speaking is Hinglish, which is actually a reflection on globalisation, rather than colonialism, as I’d previously assumed (Chand 2016). That said, colonialism did leave one mark in India that got a mention in Ladies Room.

Upon my first viewing of Ladies Room, I missed the reference to “377” that was mentioned by the policeman outside the door. This reference was made following Dingo’s remarks about “coming out” and “homosexuality”. Upon further research, I realised that this comment actually holds quite a lot of significance. Section 377 of the IPC is a law that the British colonial authorities brought to India, which outlawed “sexual activities against the order of nature” (Patel & Khajuria 2016). In 2009, the High Court “decriminalised homosexual acts, making consensual gay sex legal under the law for the first time since 1861″(Patel & Khajuria 2016). However, in 2014 the Supreme Court overturned this law, decreeing homosexual acts as illegal once again. In Ladies Room, Dingo directly defies the policeman’s reference to this law, stating “Look sir, no law can stop two people in love…[to her friend Khanna] he’s talking rubbish!” His response was, “we should let people like you rot in jail”, which ultimately  and unfortunately removes any chance of queerness being normalised.

As I stated earlier, my introduction to Ladies Room was through a comparison to the North American show, Broad City and I maintained that comparative mindspace while watching the series. It wasn’t until I applied further reflection and research that I had my epiphany moment: comparison is problematic. Ladies Room and Broad City are simply different shows, not comparably different shows. The social and political climate of a culture shapes their story telling boundaries. Ladies Room is a feminist show within a social and political climate where the LGBTQ community have limited rights and women face different challenges in discrimination and representation.

While I understand my initial disappoint based on my context, through this autoethnographic experience I was able to reflect and come to the conclusion that while the context of the Ladies Room web series is different to mine, the feminist values and aspirations are the same. And feminist content is always great to see, even if it isn’t exactly the way I’d like to see it.


Image Credit: Tyler Feder, Instagram.


Chand V. 2016. The rise and rise of Hinglish in India, The Conversation, available from

Dundoo S.D. 2016. Ashima Chibber quoted in What happens in a ‘Ladies Room’?, The Hindu, available from 

Kumari A & Joshi H. 2015. Gender Stereotyped Portrayal of Women in the Media: Perception and Impact on Adolescent, IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, Volume 20, Issue 4, Ver. II (Apr. 2015), PP 44-52, available from

Dr Patel V & Khajuria R. 2016. Political Feminism in India: An Analysis of Actors, Debates and Strategies, Research Gate, available from

Patowary H. 2014. Portrayal of Women in Indian Mass Media: An Investigation, Journal of Education & Social Policy, Vol. 1 No. 1; June 2014, available from 

Uwujaren J & Utt J. 2015. Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It), Everyday Feminism, available from  

Yash Raj Films, About, available from


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Autoethnography Exercise PART ONE: Experience

Throughout my life I have participated in journal writing, experienced introversion and social anxiety and studied sociology. All these experiences have (for better or worse) taught me to be the observer, to be critical of the observer and to reflect on the observer. They have also sparked an interest in me to seek out autoethnographic accounts, though I was unaware of the concept itself until recently.

I find autoethnographies to provide great insights into different cultures, ways of thinking and experiences that are invaluable to challenging my truths and forcing me to continue approaching everything with a simultaneous openness and critical analysis (a recent and very interesting find is the perspective of a trans man discussing his experiences of white male privilege).

An autoethnography is both a process and a product, as it “treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al, 2011), and these acts are constantly being challenged and evolving. Arguably the most important thing to remember is that there is no universal truth and nothing is binary. Understanding this is crucial when approaching an autoethnography, as the researcher needs to be able to identify their experiences and other’s experiences with equal validation, analysis and reflection.

The other day I was scrolling through facebook when I saw the post below and decided to try an autoethnographic exercise of ‘Ladies Room‘, a youtube series dubbed “India’s answer to Broad City”.


As a fan of Broad City (let’s just forget about that time they endorsed Hillary Clinton), I was curious to see what India’s version of Broad City could look like. Annnd…well l was a bit disappointed. I’ve jotted down some thoughts I had while watching Episode 1:

  • Before I even hit play I’m surprised at the amount of views (over 1.5 million) before I remembered that India has a huge population and when I was in India I saw billboards for ‘Hate Story 3’, which looked so ridiculous I naturally went on to view the trailer, which had over 26 million views and so I connected the dots then. Naturally I watched that trailer again before continuing…
  • They speak in and out of english, which again reminded me of being constantly confused in India…colonialism?
  • Like 3/4 of their sentences are in English with random Hindi (?) words thrown in there.
  • My favourite one, all english except the word for weed (1:25)
  • Constant flashback to India times. That bathroom setting was far too familiar.
  • That background music, I dunno.
  • Lol, using period talk to make men uncomfortable, a classic move. Broad City did it better, soz.
  • Rape in jail jokes, not my type of jokes.
  • I’m fighting all urges to stop watching and research Indian culture.
  • Policeman seems upset not because they are smoking, but because they are “ladies” and smoking.
  • Oh, only reference to LGBTQI community and I’m unable to make a judgement of it…(3:21-3:32)
  • I’m unsure how I feel about the over dramatised reactions.
  • Daniel Craig reference? Ok.
  • “Commit suicide”. Not pc.
  • I’m laughing…at the gross toilet joke. Who am I. I love it though.
  • I’m still laughing.
  • Does ‘Haan’ mean ‘huh’?
  • I’m still fighting the urge to pause the video and research India’s stance on gender roles, feminism, lgbtqi community etc to give me more context for this viewing.
  • I like the way they display messages into the video:Screenshot 2016-08-03 18.20.53
  • They really like the suicide jokes.
  • Once it finished I immediately scrolled down to comments…looks like every comments section on every youtube video ever:

Screenshot 2016-08-03 18.24.55

Overall, from my perspective, it was relatively underwhelming and lacked the kind of content I was hoping to see in comparison to Broad City. The video description lead me to believe it was pretty groundbreaking for India’s standards, however the terms used to describe the show raised some red flags for me. Terms like “raunchiest”, “mental adventures”, “girl bros” and wrapping it up by saying these two women went where no “man” has gone before are arguably problematic:

“Ladies Room is the raunchiest Y-Films series featuring its wildest leads, Dingo and Khanna.
This is a story of two besties and the mental adventures they go through in six different loos over the six-episode series. It is a show about modern young ‘girl bros’ struggling to grow up even as they grow old. These girls are mad, bad and completely unapologetic about it!

Dingo and Khanna boldly take you where no man has gone before.”

Y-Films, Ladies Room, 2016

I think the biggest reason I was left a little disappointed was because I wanted this show to reshape my assumptions about India and I’m not sure if it did in the ways I was hoping it would.

Next post I will delve further and provide an autoethnographic analysis of my experience watching Ladies Room.


Ellis C, Adams T.E., & Bochner A.P. 2011. Autoethnography: An Overview, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1., available from

Y Films. 2016. Ladies Room Episode 01 | Dingo & Khanna Get Caught With Pot, Youtube, available from

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Contextual Essay: Refugees & Cyberculture Project

I have been conscious of the plight of refugees, and how that is represented, for a number of years. I also interact with former refugees on a weekly basis, making this subject area of personal interest as well as intellectual interest. My aim for this project was to research the complexities of refugee experiences and gain more insight into a subject area I’m already passionate about. Focusing on cyberculture is an aspect of the refugee experience that I haven’t previously researched – and I quickly learnt there are many complex layers to refugees and cyberculture.

I wanted to make a video series that was accessible for a general audience, so I shaped my video format to be visual and informative. By focusing on four specific topic areas (Engage, Assist, Control & Represent), my aim was to investigate these main aspects that make up the experience of refugees and cyberculture.

I was already aware of how vulnerable refugees are in a world of closed borders and tough regulation, but I didn’t realise until I completed my research for this project just how deep this vulnerability goes. Learning that not only government institutions, but also agencies like UNHCR, require biometric registration before refugees can access help is deeply concerning to me. The experimental practice of biometric systems on refugees also seems highly unethical, and leaves me with more questions than answers. Researching this project has given me a more informed awareness about the many, many complex aspects of a refugee’s experience.

Throughout the production of this project I faced a lot of challenges. The main challenge being that this subject area is simply too vast to fit into four videos. I found I had to cut down on a lot of information to fit within the video format. It proved quite challenging to turn detailed and sometimes complicated concepts into simple sentences –  a skill I think I’ve developed throughout the process of this project. To overcome my need to include everything, I decided to maintain a clear focus throughout each video, hence the four main subject areas explored in the video series. By focusing on specific areas, each video is in itself a representation of the varying refugee experiences and I like that I was able to do that.

Though I am happy with the work I have produced, in the future I would focus more specifically so that I can go into more detail. I realised when I first starting putting my material together that each topic could easily be a 30min video by itself, so a narrower focus would have probably helped make my content clearer. 

Overall, I think my focus on the four main areas of refugees and cyberculture, ‘Engage’, ‘Assist’, ‘Control’, and ‘Represent’ that I chose to research provided an overarching picture of their experiences. I am hopeful that these videos are accessible to a wide audience and though I was not able to go into a great amount of detail for each topic, I’m hoping that the subject matter raised will prompt viewers to consider their perspective on refugees, how it is shaped and maybe even conduct their own further research!

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 9.11.17 pm

Web series available here.

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