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Bikies, burqas and Bakhtin: Autoethnographic reflections on a carnivalesque life.

Green, Megan (2018) Bikies, burqas and Bakhtin: Autoethnographic reflections on a carnivalesque life. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Autoethnography, as one of its leading practitioners Carolyn Ellis notes, allows the researcher to examine and write about their life in ways that are analytical, evocative and highly personal. Utilising this self-reflexive methodology and drawing on an eclectic set of data from both the past and present, I explore the way in which my life has exhibited aspects of Mikhail Bakhtin’s “carnivalesque” mode, and how certain humorous enactments have worked to undermine cultural conformity. I also critically reflect on my upbringing in a Christian family and attempt to draw a link not only between my own personal faith and carnival, but a broader connection between Christianity and the carnivalesque. The trickster – a key carnival figure – is simultaneously examined, manifest throughout not only in specific comic instances, but via the unorthodox nature of the thesis itself, which incorporates humorous paraphernalia such as memes, tweets and comic strips, and intertwines the “creative” and the “theoretical” in ways that are illuminating and occasionally disharmonious. Subjective experiences are filtered through various theoretical frameworks, among them feminist, anthropological, sociological and theological, contextualising the writing, and grounding it within an academic setting.

As is often the case with the autoethnographic approach, outcomes are less easily defined, more open to interpretation and reinterpretation, and it is for this reason that I speak of personal “reflections” rather than “findings” when discussing this thesis. What has emerged is the sense that my life is strongly informed by the carnivalesque, interwoven with moments of trickster-like disruption that often serve to challenge the status quo. Alternatively, I have encountered instances of extra-carnival behaviour, of subscription to those same cultural norms I claim to undermine. Significantly, such inclinations are often treated with an ironic, mocking glance, thereby channelling the self-directed laughter of carnival. Part of the uniqueness of this thesis lies in the fact that it diminishes the traditional distinction between theory and practice. Rather than simply examining the carnivalesque from a comfortable distance, I employ autoethnography as a means of embodying the carnivalesque, illuminating Bakhtinian theories such as dialogism in and through the research process, outcome and artefact. In this way, scholarship on both the carnivalesque and doctoral writing (particularly in the arena of creative arts) is extended and reimagined. This thesis seeks to shed new light on the carnivalesque by placing it within a particular, idiosyncratic context (the life of a 21st century, white Australian woman of Christian heritage) and by “living out” the humorous and subversive potentiality of carnival.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): De Reuck, Jennifer and Lazaroo, Simone
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