Mukbang, Autoethnography analyse

Ellis et al. (2011) suggested that Autoethnography is an approach that “a researcher uses tenets of autobiography and ethnography to do and write.” In order to understand Mukbang as a social phenomenon, digital product, and online entertainment, I used ethnographic research method. I reflexively analyzed my personal lived experience and opinion about Mukbang in my last blog. I became a participatory observer when I did some research on how Korean, Chinese, and Westerners about it.

About subjectivity

According to Ellis et al. (2011), Autoethnography “acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research, rather than hiding from these matters or assuming they don’t exist. “. The relationship between the researcher and their autobiographic feedbacks about a specific topic is the crucial part of Autoethnography study. Hitchcock & Hughes (1995) and Plummer (2001) all agreed that one advantage of the subjectivity is that readers can access to the real world of the teller, which makes the researcher become an insider in the research. Richards (2008) pointed out that through reading Antoethnography work, people capable of reading researcher’s first-hand story. In this case, the story has only framed by their experience, there is no agenda and reframe in between teller and listener. 

When I wrote down my idea about Mukbang, I was simply documenting my feelings and preference as me. The teller is someone who was raised in China, trained how to eat appropriately by Chinese parents, and expose to all kinds of Japan and Korea culture product since primary school. I was critically commenting on those Mukbang and eaters based on my knowledge of food, cooking, and how to eat food. And all those epiphanies alter my understanding of eating and food. For example, I said I prefer Asian eaters because they which bring me some nostalgia. I like the Asian food they eat and the way they eat.

Being observer

When I read the comments on what people like about Mukbang in a Chinese discussion forum, I noticed that the table manner is a central section when they judge an eater. I think that is because of most Chinese share similar childhood memory about eating training.

Evidence: most Mukbang audiences bothered by eater with inappropriate eating manner.

Later, I found there is a big difference between Mukbang audience among Asia and Western. Asian viewers normally hold high expectations for the dish to present aesthetically; meanwhile, the eating sound (ASMR) is a big deal to Western.

Clifford Geertz (1973) defined “culture as an organized collection of symbols and signs.” Food is an indispensable component of culture as it can be nostalgic; it can build up a special connection between individuals with family and nation. Margaret Mead(1970) (a famous American Anthropologist) pointed out that food provides people with nutrition to support physical needs. More importantly, food is also for gift giving and sharing with family and friends. That is to say, diet, eating, cooking is culture symbols for each nation. Nation culture outsiders can understand nation culture to some extent by observing food relevant topics and activities. 

It is no doubt that Mukbang is a unique food-related phenomenon that starts in Korea and later spread to Asia. I believe all the comments about Mukbang and food are based on everyone’s varied life experience. It is obvious that the Mukbang trend received more attention and audience in Asia, which I assume is because of Asian rich food culture and long history.

I have found some resources about the history of Chinese cuisine and the social function of food, which are very worth to read.

For the Group DA, my group plan to experience the traditional Japanese food from a Japanese show called Midnight Diner, and discuss how that food gives us different tasting experience. Since I have the honor to be the chef, I will also try to compare the cooking process to my daily cooking.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 

Geertz, Clifford, (1973) “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” in The Interpretation of Cultures, Basic Books.

Hitchcock, G., & Hughes, D. (1995). Research and the teacher. (2 ed.) London: Routledge.

Plummer, K. (2001). The call of life stories in ethnographic research. In P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland, & L. Lofland(Eds.), Handbook of ethnography (pp. 395-406). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Richards, R. (2008). Writing the othered self: Autoethnography and the problem of objectification in writing about illness and disability. Qualitative Health Research, 1, 1717-1728. 

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