Starting over...

This blog is starting over again, so here is everything so far including an entry for today...

Sitting on the floor in my ( very clean) lounge-room madly trying to finish this cursed ethics application so I can interview some folk (the mad tidying, re-organising, scrubbing and bleaching of the house has finally finished - since there is no surface left to clean. And considering there's no-one on MSN, procrastination has given way to actual work. Sigh.)...

It has however, helped a LOT by making me think about the implications of this project and the reasoning behind it - validation, I think it's commonly called.

Anyhoo, an extract...

The proposed research project explores the ways that surfing culture builds a bridge between international communities. It explores the way that participation and inclusion in surfing culture develops a greater sensitivity to the surrounding world, both natural and human. With this in mind, there are several benefits to be identified. The first is to the surfing community itself. There are many stereotypes being perpetuated in media discourse about the kind of people that participate in this activity. This project may be able to expose another aspect of surfing that helps understanding of the personal and community benefits that can arise from participation. This kind of cultural discussion may also help surfers to understand their own community and the contributions it is able to make in the world more distinctly and to give these contributions validity. Benefits also may be found in the way we participate in inter-cultural communication and connection with Australia’s (arguably) most significant neighbour. There are natural points of connection between these two national cultures. Perhaps howver they are not included in discussions of cultural relations because they do not fit in established notions of the ways in which such connections are framed.

23rd May 2005

Sitting at The Balcony (AGAIN! well they have wireless and a MASSIVE table that I am able to requisition for myself!!) and working on an ethics application. Sigh. BUT I think I may almost be getting somewhere with articulating this idea...

My thesis project aims to explore the ways that surfing as a cultural practice has helped develop an organic inter-cultural connection between Byron Bay and Bali.

The broader Australian relationship with Indonesia is largely negotiated through the media in the context of politics and economics, which are both forced, diplomatic ways of relating. The Australian relationship to Bali is framed economically as a tourist destination and is necessarily political due to the tyranny of geography. Such a framework creates a discourse of us and them, with little discussion of the relationship without ulterior motives. What this project hopes to show is a particular example of an established starting point from which the surfing community in Byron Bay has been able to build a more organic cultural relationship. This relationship may not ultimately resemble a friendship, but is perhaps more reminiscent of that of sympathetic and tolerant neighbours.

This thesis proposes that by partaking in surfing as a practice, participants expand not only their view of the world (through experiences and knowledge gained from travel and communication methods), but also a greater interest and personal stake in the international environments and communities which make up surfing destinations. There is a further implication that surfing, as an activity, encourages greater interaction with the surrounding world, both local and beyond, and that surfing itself has developed a sense of community and identity which resides outside of the traditional realms of nation and citizenship. It is proposed that surfing creates a community of participation, tolerance, respect for others and respect for the environment, which allows the development of inter-cultural connections.

12th May 2006
Sitting on my bed, 2nd night in my NEW household...

Met with Baden yesterday. He made me realise that I have to stop over-thinking things and to keep my focus within the parameters of my project; I cannot keep expanding the boundaries of what is possible within the next months.

Some key terms and ideas that came out of this chat;

  • Inter-cultural connection
  • Inter-cultural communication
  • The notion that the practice of surfing actualises some kind of expansion of the mind and the awareness that surfing participants have of the natural and cultural world around them.

Key ideas for the thesis then?

  • Inter-cultural connection
  • Cultural practice
  • Community/individuality
  • Identity
  • Locality
  • Place

The structure of the thesis is another problem altogether. It seems that it will be structured around places and identities. For example, the chapter areas could cover;

  • Surfing – as an activity, an identity, a place, a community, a location
  • Byron Bay – as a place, locality, community
  • Bali – as a place, locality, community
  • The ways that surfing links these separate places and communities
  • Implications

11th May 2006
At Utopia Café in Bangalow with Emma, sitting about, drinking coffee and reading ‘The Anthropology of Globalization’…

Do Australians claim some kind of ownership over Bali as a place? Do Australians feel that their connection to Bali (as a place) exists in more significant ways than it appears to the Balinese. Are we merely ‘migrants’ in the way that other Indonesians are – controlling the ways and means by which the Balinese perceive what is important in their culture and what has value – cultural, commercial or otherwise. Why has Bali become Australia’s ‘backyard’ or is this even the case? Have the bombings and the highly publicised drug cases made Australians feel betrayed by Bali? Have Australians felt they held a special place in the power structure of Bali due to the dollars they bring in? Do they feel that the tourist dollar also buys them some kind of right to behave in Australian ways, and with Australian values, with impunity.

Monday, May 08, 2006

4th May 2006

Sitting at The Balcony going over Martin Fluker’s paper Riding The Wave: Defining Surf Tourism (2003)...

Would it be worth doing an anonymous survey in Byron of surf participation OR surveying Boardriders/Mal Club etc to find out numbers of people going to Bali?

8th April 2006, 10.52pm
Late at night. Have avoided the temptation of the Pirate party around the corner. Met with Baden yesterday at Bayleaf, so there’s been LOTS to think about...

Firstly,

Established main goals before the end of semester are:

Finalise my question
Begin and make headway with my lit review.
Organise interviews – get ethics clearance asap.

It’s good to have goals!!

Secondly, I’ve been thinking about identity. People identify with the world at different levels, and as such, must place different levels of importance/significance on each level. There are identities that we are compulsorily placed into and then there are those that we choose.

Compulsory
Nation
Location
Job
Family
Race

Choice
Location (fits in both as we can choose where we live to some extent...)
Community
Activities/passions

In the context of my project, I am wondering which identity surfers relate to more; surfing or nationality?

There is a lot more to cover here!

Also, Baden raised the issue of the exclusivity of surfing and its culture. There is an insularity to the surf community and membership is solely achieved through active participation. However, the culture of surfing is also a commodified thing – “Only a surfer knows the feeling”.

In this way, there are two aspects to surfing; aggressive, competitive surfing and ‘soul surfing’. Each is a very different activity and each is motivated by entirely different outcomes.

Does the experience of surfing open participants up to a more sympathetic and personal view of the world and their place in it? Does it change the way they view their environment and the cultures of the places that they surf? Does it increase their feeling of being a ‘stakeholder’ in the world?

2nd April 2006, 7.13pm
Beginning the Week 7 readings for MH.

L. Tuhiwai Smith, 1999, (Chapter Four: ‘Research and Adventures on Indigenous Land, pp78-94) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People, London: Zed Books

“There has been recent theorising of the significance of travel, and of location, on shaping Western understandings of the Other and producing more critical understandings of the nature of theory.” (p78) Cites J. Clifford & D. Gregory, 1994 “Geographical Imaginations”

“While travelling theory may focus on the location of those who travel, the attention here is on the people whose bodies, territories, beliefs and values have been travelled through.” (p78)

2nd April 2006, 11.32am
Finished RC’s readings on producing a thesis...

Questions I need/want to answer in my thesis;

1. Can we talk about a cultural relationship between Indonesia and Australia?
2. Are there areas where we can find a natural cultural ‘fit’?
3. Can we talk about a cultural relationship between the surfing community (and beyond) in Byron Bay and the people of Bali more broadly?
4. Has surfing provided a part of this link? OR Does surfing enhance this link?
5. Does surfing provide a distinct kind of access (more authentic) into contemporary Balinese life – one that a different kind of tourist may not receive? HOW does surfing provide this?
6. How do surfers receive and pass on information about their experiences in Bali? Is this kind of communication a ‘tradition’?
7. Is spending time in Bali (and enjoying it!) an important part of being in the surfing community in Byron Bay?
8. How does this information impact more broadly on the cultural relationship between Indo and Aust? DOES it impact more broadly?

1ST April 2006, 4.51pm
At the Balcony, trying to work on the MH essay and stumbled (!!) upon some notes I made a few weeks ago. They are as follows...

Surf tourism driving cultural contact with Indo (Bali)
Bali as the middle ground between Australia and Indo more broadly
Multicultural activity
Cultural flexibility – who adapts to who?
‘Mind-sets’ being changed by contact

So, these notes seem pretty self explanatory and were obviously very much made on the way to where I am right now in regards to my work BUT, what the hell did I mean by ‘multicultural activity’? Gracious me, ME!

Perhaps what I meant is that surfing itself acts as a multicultural activity and isn’t bounded by notions of religion, culture, East or West. OK, so obviously we have the issue of the Balinese interpretation of the ocean in their spectrum of the world, but does that belief system still hold true, or have the Balinese changed the way they feel about the ocean? How do they view the activity that takes place in the ocean NOW? Has that belief changed more broadly (been rearticulated)? Has it only changed amongst young people/surfers? Or is it more problematic than that? Is it a compromise that typifies the kind of commodification of their own culture? Is it something that the Balinese lost in their pursuit of the tourist economy, OR is it something that has changed as a part of the dynamism of cultural identity? Is it the kind of contemporary activity that creates a meeting place for cultures?

And this is why a journal is more useful than notes scribbled on scraps of paper!

30th March 2006, 3.30pm

Today (at work) I met a man who is moving to the Mentawis to help run a resort and to organise boat trips in the islands. I spoke to him about my thesis idea (as it remains merely that!) and he was into it! He seemed to have similar thoughts to me on the topic, which was interesting. I also saw Shane Lawson today and I think he could be an excellent person to talk to in relation to the whole topic.

The idea of interviews has led me to think about the appropriateness of my interview subjects. Will it make a difference if they are people that I already have a relationship with – a friend or an acquaintance? Will it be something that I’ll have to dance around a bit, or will it affect the way that I am able to talk to them (or they’re able to talk to me!), and will that then have implications to the way that I must structure my questions?

I would like to assume that there shouldn’t be too many issues about this...

In thinking about interview subjects, I’ve come up with several areas that could be covered;

-‘Old’ locals who travelled to Bali in the 70s eg Rusty Miller, Jim Banks (but must look into him a bit more), Dick Pezet (?), Geoff McCoy.
-Locals in their 30s and 40s who were the next crew to go. Eg Shane Lawson, Sean Cochran (?), recommendations from older crew...
-Youngsters! The latest crew to travel to Indo for waves and...? Also, is this the first crew that had a strong female presence? Why are these kids going? Is it merely to surf in a beautiful place or is there more? Is it becoming a rite of passage? How do they come by Indo as a destination? Do they travel alone? Is there an oral/written tradition developing? How do they feel about/connect to the place? Johnny Abegg, Crystal Carney, Kent Wright
-Magazines. Waves, Surfing Life, Stab, Tracks. Providers of information for the surfing masses. Who do they get their info off? How do they decide what is important? How does culture rate in their discussions? Do THEY provide preconceived ideas of what will be experienced before folk even depart? What do and don’t they tell?
-Australians running surf related businesses eg resorts, boats, camps etc. What do they expect their clients to get out of their trip? What do their clients seem to want to get out of their trip?
Indonesians living in Byron Bay. There is a significant Balinese (?) community living in this area; how did this happen? Why Byron Bay?

I need to think about whether or not ALL these options are relevant to the topic? AND where are they relevant? In setting a context? In providing data? How many people do I need to talk to in each area?

MUST begin to develop a question and a PLAN!!

So...

Why does the surfing community in Byron Bay share such a (seemingly) natural relationship with Indonesia? Especially Bali? What implications does this have? Why do Byron Bay locals find it so easy to create a relationship with Indonesia and its people? Has surfing provided a part of this relationship? Is it related to the kind of people who originally travelled to that area and their reasons for going? Does the surfing community have its own set of specific oral (friends) and written (magazines) set of traditions - myths and understandings – that relate to shared set of experiences? Do these experiences and expectations get handed down through the community generations? Is travelling to Bali (Indo) a ‘tradition’ for Byron Bay’s surfing community?

Then...

How does surfing help create the points of commonality that establish cultural sympathy/empathy and understanding? How does it develop into community relationships that are bigger than individual relationships (gestalt?)?

29th March 2006, 10.30pm
Nothing in particular, but inspired by introduction to The Changing World of Bali by Leo Howe…

One of the questions I have regarding ‘experiences’ of Australians travelling to Indonesia (Bali?), is how genuine their experience of the Balinese culture is? Howe discusses the perpetuation of ‘tradition’ by Balinese people, who effectively trade upon their culture as a commodity. The question can then be asked, who is this culture existing for? A tourist who travels to Bali to see, feel and experience Balinese culture as part of their trip, is seeing a certain type of Balinese culture, which is, potentially, the part that the Balinese value and display above other parts due to the fact that they can make money off it!


So, is a tourist, who is drawn to Indo (Bali) by the waves they can catch getting a more genuine experience of the Balinese life than a holidaying tourist? Do they, through the shared experience of their pursuit of waves, manage to avoid cultural constructions, to a degree, and therefore see more of what Bali, as an idea/culture/way of life is about?
Culture is something more than ‘frozen’ traditions that the first Westerners who chanced upon Balinese culture saw. Culture is a dynamic, perpetual development, which exists, not only to provide a way of acting upon the world (ritual, tradition, ceremony, beliefs, language), but is also a way of acting with the world and a way to create a system of understanding to find where we belong within it.


The Balinese must constantly try and understand and reconceptualise themselves in relation to the others that they find on their island. This does not mean only the tourists that fill their lives (and pockets), but also the migrant Indonesians from other islands who are trading on the Balinese traditions and way of life in order to run businesses and make money. Can a dance performance or an orchestral performance provide such an understanding? The Balinese, like the rest of the global population, live in a contemporary world, facing contemporary issues. The traditions and ceremonies that worked for them 100 years ago, may not translate perfectly into today’s climate – there may be changes, but these changes also DO NOT change the authenticity of their existence. It may, however, change the reason that tradition has remained, while other, less spectacular traditions, have disappeared.

24th March 2006, 12.22pm
After reading Chapter One of ‘Australia’s Ambivalence Towards Asia’...

  • Who is for community (concrete)? Who is for the individual (abstract)? Is it differentiated by class/education?
  • Who has values that bring them to engage with ‘Asia’ in a cultural frame? What kind of values are they? Where do they come from?
  • How do these values inform their cultural engagement with Asia?
    Ø ‘EDUCATED’ – Theorising? Politicising? Disillusioned? Superiority?
    Ø ‘LOWER CLASSES’ – Engagement? Holidaying? Migrants? Verbalising fears (lack of hesitation to discuss their fears of the ‘other’ and to change their opinions based on experience)?
  • Does surfing provide a practical/low level type of engagement OUTSIDE of resorts and TYPICAL holidays?
  • Does this kind of experience move people into closer, less forced, contact with people – the local and the genuine?
  • What are the expectations/preconceptions that surfers take in relation to the way they will be engaging with the ‘locals’?
  • Oral traditions of communicating experience through the surfing community (friends, acquaintances, hearsay, clubs, media) of what it’s like to travel there – what to expect, what are the people like, what is the place like?

So, are the understanding and interpretation of the people and place encountered built on a genuine personal experience OR are they handed down, reinterpreted and perpetuated by the community from which they were accessed? Tradition of experience and understanding?

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