DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: The preservation of tradition under conditions of precarity: An ethnography of dyeing and print techniques in contemporary Japan (working title)
Research: My DPhil research is part of an ongoing exploration into textile techniques, aesthetics, and histories, focusing on the social, environmental, and economic relationships that are formed during the production process. Using long-term participant observation and methodologies associated with apprenticeship, my current research based in Japan, looks at the contemporary production of textiles associated with the Oshima Tsumugi kimono silk industry of Amami Oshima, Kagoshima Prefecture. Here, mud and indigo have traditionally been used to dye silk yarn but more recently craft practitioners have diversified into new areas of commerce and global sustainable design markets. My work questions the preservation of tradition looking at how traditions evolve to find their place in contemporary society, and the role that traditional crafts play in sustaining rural social networks, economies, and ecologies, particularly in light of issues surrounding rural depopulation and migration, to/from urban metropolitan centres. Taking a holistic perspective on the natural environment, my work explores the material and ecological dynamics between craft materials and their source environment where humans, plants, animals, and technology co-exist in productive (or counterproductive?) relationships. With Amami Oshima currently being considered for UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site recognition, my research will examine craft preservation and environmental conservation collectively to establish whether there are connections to be observed across these two movements. During this current era of global political, environmental and social precarity, my aim is to establish whether nostalgia associated with material culture, lifestyles, and labour practices of the past, can be used creatively and progressively to generate a more sustainable future?
Other research interests: Visual and material anthropology, museum anthropology, environmental anthropology, post-colonial studies, Japanese studies, ethnographic film, landscape, enskilment and sensory anthropology, folklore, Scottish ethnology, Indian textiles, textile history, contemporary fashion and textile design.