Project Proposal

For my ethnographic field project, I want to study the demographics behind the people who subscribe to the various food superstitions in Chinese culture or the archaic practice of eating dog.  One of the main instances that sparked my interest in the topic were the Internet protests that halted the celebration of a dog festival.  Originating online, it seems to suggest that most of these people come from a younger generation of people.  So, the main question that I want to answer is who believes in these superstitions in the present time and do they share a common factor.

Unfortunately in my meeting with Fang Laoshi, he was not able to give me a list of places where dog was available in Beijing and was even skeptical that I would be able to find it for sale.  This really sent the ideas for my project back to the planning stages, so I’m still trying to sort of the specifics.  However, Fang Laoshi is planning on possibly having me attend a wedding to observe the different traditions and superstitions that surround the type of food typically served at an occasion like that.  In addition, he suggested that I will probably be invited to dinner with some native Chinese people.  There is also not a strong likelihood that I will be able to do any actual interviewing in a restaurant due to not wanting to cause interference in the restaurant’s business or customers.

While I tried to think of an equivalent in American life, I could only think of superstitions that people do jokingly (and unrelated to food) like knocking on wood or keeping good luck tokens like a four leaf clover.  What worries me the most is that I’m going to get over there and find out that not a lot of people actually take these things seriously and I’m going to have to scramble for a new topic.

It seems as if the places I will be able to observe will be a wedding (hopefully) and any dinners I happen to go to with the people I meet there as well as observing the street food vendors.  However, since everyone eats food I can imagine that I will be able to go up to anyone and ask them their opinions on these habits like eating dog etc.

The questions that I plan on asking my subjects are pretty straightforward questions regarding food habits and background info.  1) Level of highest education? 2) Age? Place of Birth? etc 3) Do your grandparents live with you in your household? 4) Do you support China’s practice of consuming dog? 5) Do you consider eating the fish’s eye hold any sort of luck? 6) Are there any other food practices that you participate in that you believe brings good luck?  7) Does the rest of your family practice your same beliefs? 8) Do you own any pets?

I hope that these questions will give me a general idea of who actually believes in these superstitions.  With the questions about the family, parents, and grandparents, I hope to reveal some information about the age difference of believers.  These questions will be written down on a survey that I plan on passing out to my interviewees as well as encouraging any other personal anecdotes.

Definitely the most significant thing about my project is the way in which China is moving further and further away from their old cultural practices and superstitions, while moving towards a new generation with access to the internet who can observe how other cultures behave.  With an increased connectivity, the younger generations especially can see how unethical the treatment of dog is and maybe the archaic attitudes about eating the firm fish’s eye.