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Benny Tong is a PhD student in the School of Culture, History and Language. On 2 March he will give his pre-submission seminar, which all are welcome to attend. Click here for more information.
In this piece, Benny reflects on his research and the experience of doing a PhD at ANU.
I came to Canberra from Singapore in 2015 to do my PhD. I had previously travelled here to participate in a short workshop for Japanese Studies postgraduate students, but coming to Canberra to start my research was my first real taste of life in Australia.
I am now in the fourth year of my PhD. The Higher Degree Research community at ANU is very vibrant, and I am grateful that I was welcomed very quickly and invited to join regular seminars and other academic events. As a result, my contacts span across ANU, and I work closely with many researchers outside my discipline, especially anthropologists and musicologists.
The working title of my thesis is ‘Singing in Life’s Twilight: Serious Karaoke as Everyday Aging Practice in Urban Japan.’ I was originally interested in issues of musical genre, national identity and nationalism. I wanted to develop my research on a Japanese music genre called enka, which is considered a kind of classic ‘oldies’ country music in Japan, and is closely linked to what it means to be traditionally Japanese.
I planned to use an audience studies approach, since most existing research has been from a production perspective. But as I read through the literature in my first year, and then went on field research in my second year, I found that the advice my supervisors gave was very important in shifting my topic towards aging and issues facing the elderly in Japan.
Many of the academics I know are very much focused on telling the stories from the perspective of the people in the field, so I was encouraged to pay more attention to these voices. When I heeded that advice, I found real stories about real people that the wider public could recognise and relate to. That’s the kind of wonderful training I have received so far.
I would definitely recommend doing a postgraduate research degree at ANU. I have my own office and have had the chance to teach a few courses in the College of Asia and the Pacific. I am also regularly invited to take part in seminars that have both research students and senior faculty. The discussion is always conducted in a very egalitarian manner so both students and faculty make their arguments known and participate in debate.
My experience at ANU provides the kind of lifestyle you might encounter as an academic after the PhD, so I feel that I am on the right path doing my postgraduate research at ANU.