NUS SEMESTER 2 | SC3212 Module Review| Visualizing the Lunar New Year – an Ethnographical Approach

This semester I decided to sit for modules that challenged me in additional ways, other than what I’ve come to expect. I purposefully sought out modules that were more practical and technically more demanding than what I’m accustomed to. Consequentially, I took Sociology module (SC3213) – Ethnographical Analysis of Visual Media – as I thought it would add a new perspective to my understanding of media and the wider world. The module is definitely one of my favorites to attend as it’s engaging, as well promotes creativity and critical thinking.

I especially enjoy the immersive nature of the lecturers and tutorial; and how the professor encourages the students to become active participants  as so that we may learn from first hand experience. The class is given weekly assignments (a mixture of academic and reflective pieces), that encourage students to consider questions relating to  the role ethnography and the process of production. The goal being, that by the end of the semester, students are able to complete their own visual ethnographical projects.

My most recent assignment, which involved photography, focused on the process of production involved in visual ethnography, and was overall very interesting. The aim of the task was to visualize the Lunar New Year in relation to any choose topic ( i.e gender, family, etc).  For this projects, students worked independently, and had the freedom to choose which topic to focus on.

When approaching this task I was unsure of where I would be spending new years day, as I did not know any locals willing to have me in their home photographing them, so I decided to complete this task the day before.

Thus, on the eve of Lunar New Year I  took to the streets of Chinatown, a Singaporean neighbourhood commonly known for it’s high population of Chinese citizens which is popular for it’s mixture of modern and traditional Chinese shops/markets, as a means of understanding the consumption culture that surrounds the occasion.

The following photographs are samples taken from the selection I submitted for this assignment.

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The Market Place – Consumption of Goods

The two photos above were taken within second of each other and thus both dipict the same scene – were we see locals buying sweets, nuts and fruits. Here the woman smiles at the shop keepers assistances, whilst potential customers surround, lurk, and walk by.

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Chinese New Year Dancers – Production/Consumption of Art

The above photograph, depicts the child performers as they waited backstage for their cue to go out onto the stage – which was just through the door. In this moment there was cheering coming from the other side of where the performers are standing –  which indicated the excitement in the audience awaiting.

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The Guard – Monitors of Consumption

The guard in the above was one of the many officers that worked to ensure that the roads were clear. There were many other guards at the events that assisted citizen, however the majority of the guards I came across were either Malay or Indian.

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Screening – Consumption of Media

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Farhan

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Observers – Consumers of Spectacle and Preservation of Experience

When the new year began at midnight, fireworks were released into the night sky. The crowds below raised their cameras to capture the event as it occured.

Overall, it was extremely humbling and eye opening to be immersed in a culture and history which I’ve never encountered before. It was interesting to observe how others behave collectively during festivities – particularly towards midnight when the new year began.

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