The evolution of craftsperson-ship on Amami Ōshima island, southern Japan

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 September, 2021
6:00pm BST


Dr Charlotte Linton (Robert & Lisa Sainsbury Fellow)

Available to attend in person and stream online via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
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About the Talk

Based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork on the island of Amami Ōshima, this talk discusses the changing role of the craftsperson in contemporary Japan. The quality and historicity of Japanese craft is world renowned, while craft work is a profession that garners cross-societal respect. Yet in order to sustain the future of their work a new generation of Japanese craftpeople are needing to significantly adapt traditional practice to account for changing market conditions, environmental and economic pressures, and social expectations. This talk offers the case study of Amami, where Linton carried out research at a traditional textile dyeing workshop celebrated for using dorozome (mud-dyeing) to colour the yarns of the luxury local kimono cloth Oshima Tsumugi. Using design and apprenticeship methodologies, Linton worked with the new generation of makers at this workshop, who offer a second branch to the business through the dyeing of contemporary clothing and textiles for the designer market. Her research offers unique insight into the opportunities, successes, challenges and conflicts that the craftspeople face as they embrace a diversity of roles in order to sustain cultural traditions, but also the future of local economic and social networks.

About the Speaker

Charlotte Linton is an anthropologist and designer whose work is situated at the intersection of visual, material and economic anthropology, Japanese Studies and ethnoecology. She is particularly interested in the relationships that craftspeople have with the environments from which they extract and use resources during the production of handcrafted commodities, and how these relationships sustain local social, environmental and economic networks. She received a DPhil in Anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2021 with a thesis based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork discussed in this talk. Using visual, design and participant apprenticeship methodologies, Charlotte’s research uses skills developed during her education and career as a fashion and textile designer to question the sustainability ideologies prevalent in the contemporary design world and their efficacy in small scale manufacturing settings. At the Sainsbury Institute, Charlotte will be working on a monograph and number of journal articles based on her DPhil thesis.

How to book

Booking is essential. Please book via Eventbrite. Both in-person and online attendees will receive an e-ticket with a Zoom link and instructions for joining directly. To view the lecture or participate in the Q&A, please click on the link provided and enter your details when prompted. Please email us if you have any difficulties.

If you wish to attend in-person, we encourage you to wear a mask where possible. We will also not be holding our regular post-lecture reception with refreshments for these initial lectures. We intend to reinstate this as soon as circumstances regarding the pandemic improve. Please also note the lift at the venue is currently unavailable due to flood damage.


If after booking you can no longer attend join the event, you can cancel via Eventbrite.

If you have any questions or concerns about this event, please contact us.

Japan-UK Season of Culture logo

This event is part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2021.


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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.