UCL Anthropology

Dr Julie Valk

Dr Julie Valk

Research Fellow

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2019

Research summary

Having completed my DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford in 2018, I joined UCL as an ESRC post-doctoral researcher in October 2019.

My doctoral research was concerned with the kimono retail industry. In particular, I examined how the industry is responding to falling sales and economic recession. Through 12 months of fieldwork, I followed a group of retailers, craftspeople and wholesalers attempting to revitalise the kimono by marketing it as fashion rather than as ceremonial or formal wear. Their efforts have effectively aligned the kimono with global discourses on clothing as self-expression and they have re-defined the kimono as a 'fashion lifestyle'. My research showcases how recession and economic crisis affect traditional industries and can unexpectedly provide opportunities for creativity and renewal. Drawing on economic anthropology, Japanese anthropology and subculture studies, as well as studies on dress and fashion practices, I am currently writing up my thesis as a book, intended for academic publication.

For future research, I am interested in questions of relatedness and family in Japan, particularly from the point of view of mother-daughter relationships. I plan to examine how mother-daughter relationships have transformed or adapted in response to major social and demographic change in Japan, but also how different generations of women conceive of 'family' in the Japanese context, reflecting shifting generational understandings of selfhood and the role of women in the family. This research builds on my long-standing interest in societal, demographic and economic 'crises', and how these affect (or do not affect) the day-to-day lives of Japanese people.


(book in preparation) Hanging by a Thread? The Kimono Retail Industry in Contemporary Japan

(forthcoming) 'The Smell of Showa: Time, Materiality and Regimes of Value in Japan's Secondhand Kimono Industry' in Journal of Material Culture

2019. Book Review: Costume in Performance: Materiality, Culture and the Body by Donatella Barbieri in Visual Anthropology Review 35(1): 115-117

2018. 'From Duty to Fashion: The Changing Role of the Kimono in the Twenty-First Century' in Fashion Theory 22(3): 309-340

2015. 'The "Kimono Wednesday" Protests: Identity Politics and How the Kimono Became More than Japanese' in Asian Ethnology 74(2): 379-399

Teaching summary

While not currently in a teaching position, I organise the Clothing and Fashion Research and Reading Group at UCL for the academic year 2019-2020. If you are interested in joining our group, please feel free to contact me.


University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2018
University of Oxford
Other higher degree, Master of Science (Honours) | 2011
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor | 2010


I studied Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge, during which time I lived in Toyota city for 9 months. This is a part of Japan I was to have a long-standing affinity with, as I returned to Toyota for my doctoral research in 2015-2016, after having completed an MSc in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford and having worked in Kanazawa on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme as a Coordinator for International Relations for two years. Prior to joining UCL, I was a Lecturer in the Anthropology of Japan at Oxford Brookes University, where I taught on Japan-related courses and anthropology courses.

Research Interests:

- economic anthropology
- material anthropology
- notions of 'crisis'
- clothing and fashion
- traditional industries
- selfhood, relatedness and kinship
- gender
- Japan and East Asia
- craft industries