Russel Wright and Asia: Inter-Asia Modernities and Transnational Design History During the Cold War

Dr Yuko Kikuchi has been awarded the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for two years for her project work. She will investigate the influential American designer Russel Wright (1904-76) and his less well-known design projects in Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong) during the 1950s-60s at the time of the Cold War.

This design historical study will uncover Wright’s postwar activities in Asia through which he restyled and redesigned indigenous local handicrafts for the American export market. It will be conducted through original archival research in the USA and Asia, and provide a new study framework for a transnational design history. This study also aims to contribute to the politico-cultural studies of the Cold War, particularly with respect to the under researched area of Asia. Informed by recent work and methodologies from cultural studies, her project aims to advance the current debate on cultural interdependence by bringing these ideas into an original framework that combines design objects, Asian studies and the Cold War Cultural Studies. This research will inform her next monograph.