Robert and Lisa Sainsbury fellows

Shilla Lee

Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow 2022 - 2023

PhD, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 2022

Shilla Lee is a social anthropologist whose work focuses on contemporary forms of traditional craft practices. She is particularly interested in expanding the conventional notion of craftsmanship by exploring the various socio-cultural influences and government policies that reshape the workshop space and craft skills. She received her Ph.D. from Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in 2022 and worked as a doctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany, from 2017 to 2022.

At the Sainsbury institute, she will work on her first book publication that provides a critical overview of the recent regional revitalisation policies in Japan and the implication of the rise of creativity rhetoric in rural regions. Based on ethnographic observation of the regional revitalization policy of Tamba Sasayama (Hyōgo prefecture) in 2018-19, she illustrates collective initiatives led by the local government and the role of the creative agents, namely, local traditional potters of Tamba pottery in fostering the aura of creativity in the region. By looking inside complex social relations and intertwining values of different actors, she urges to rethink creativity, rurality, and rural creativity in post-growth Japan.

Alongside her book project, she will be working on a number of journal articles. She will also scrutinize the role of local collective cooperatives in the maintenance of traditional craft communities. She is particularly interested in the multiplicity of social relations within a cooperative that allows craftspeople to cultivate and transmit new pieces of knowledge and skills, thereby, compensating for the growing absence of traditional apprenticeship and kin-based inheritance system with more horizontal organizational practices.