In my previous blog post, I introduced my BCM320 peers and readers of the subject blog to my chosen topic for my individual digital artifact: An autoethnographic study on the fake designer goods market in Asia. To reiterate the concept of autoethnography, Ellis et al (2011) explains that ‘Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience‘ [emphasis added].
The Ellis reading outlines the many different forms of autoethnography. Upon reflecting on what I wrote in my previous blog post regarding the personal experience and further research I wish to engage with, I have come to the conclusion that a ‘layered account‘ is the autoethnographic form that is most suited to allow me to fulfil the aims of my chosen project. Ellis et al describes layered accounts as those that ‘often focus on the author’s experience alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature.’ As the personal experience component of this project, I mentioned in my previous blog that I was going to purchase a fake designer good from China with the idea being to live-tweet the process of doing so from the first step of purchasing the product all the way to the last step of the product being delivered to my door step. Since my first blog post, I have done just that – I purchased a pair of “Ray Ban” Wayfarer style sunglasses from China on eBay for $1.85 (including delivery, what a bargain!) and have been recounting this journey on Twitter in a live-tweet thread.
So, why did I decide to focus on China? I recounted an anecdote from Thailand in my previous post after all, so why not go with that instead? Well, in my initial research that I mentioned in my previous blog I discovered that China is known as the ‘main source of knock-off and pirated products sold around the world.’ From this, I made the decision to look specifically at China and narrow my study to one area so as to not make my topic too broad, whilst still having a plethora of information to immerse myself in as there is lots of material available on the fake designer goods market and its relationship with China. In fact, ‘on average, 20 percent of all consumer products in the Chinese market are counterfeit.‘
Furthermore, autoethnography requires the researcher to ‘retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies‘ that come to the fore from being immersed in a culture or possessing a particular cultural identity. Although my personal experience in Thailand with fake designer goods is what sparked my interest in researching the topic, an interesting memory from my childhood surfaced. When my brother and I were kids, we had this fascination with looking at various household items and trying to find the label of where they were made. It was like solving a puzzle or finding the treasure. I can honestly say that probably 90% of the time we found ‘Made in China’ plastered somewhere on what we were looking at. Wall (2008) states that ‘Autoethnography begins with a personal story’ and this is one personal story that has obviously stuck with me. It is ‘remembered moments‘ like this that assist in triggering ideas and a thirst to obtain more knowledge on particular topics. Utilising my ‘own feelings and experiences’ (Anderson 2006, p. 384) alongside data collection and further research is what the layered account methodology is all about and I feel as though this is what I am accomplishing so far.
Wall (2008) further states that ‘personal experience can be the foundation for further sociological understanding’ and based off my experience so far, I am inclined to agree; since undertaking this project I have had many further epiphanies other than the initial light-bulb moments I have previously mentioned. I will now briefly touch on one of these below before I embrace more research of my chosen topic to fulfil all the related areas I wish to become more knowledgeable about.
I mentioned in my first post that I wish to look at the idea of intellectual property rights possibly being infringed by the production of fake designer goods. When I ordered my knock-off Ray Bans off eBay – and before conducting a little more research – I really thought harder about this. I came to the conclusion that fake designer goods essentially involves the thievery of trademarks because in reproducing brand names and logos, they pass false items off as that particular luxury brand. This is quite alarming to think about. Thievery is a criminal activity with harsh penalties, but before actually considering this, I never really regarded purchasing fake luxury items as a form of stealing. Even as a law student who has studied intellectual property law as a subject, I have never given this much thought. Have I essentially committed a crime here by spending $1.85 on fake sunglasses? Could it be that China’s ideology surrounding counterfeit luxury goods is different because of the culture’s contrasting ‘relational practices, common values and beliefs‘?
I look forward to completing more research on this topic and layering my personal experience with further analysis to fulfil the overall aims of my project, whilst having further epiphanies sparked along the way. Engaging with the Ellis reading has allowed me to better understand the autoethnographic form I am following, as well as increasing my understanding of the autoethnographic process as a whole.
- Anderson, L 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 373-395.
- Other sources have been linked throughout.