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Magali An Berthon

PhD Work

Silk in Contemporary Cambodia: Weaving a History of Survival (1990-2018)

My dissertation investigates the definition of silk as intangible heritage, from raw material, craft practice to national production since the early 1990s in the light of the country's twentieth-century political upheavals. The practice was interrupted with the Khmer Rouge regime and has now recovered, coping with subsequent loss in skills transmission and raw material production. I intend to provide a holistic approach, creating a polyphony that combines voices from the present and the past: makers, consumers, key players in the industry, materials, textile objects in museum collections, techniques, and records of historical events. The overarching theme of my research is the dynamics of silk farming and weaving skills transmission, how knowledge has been perpetuated despite past trauma and contemporary issues of drastic social and economic shifts in a post-conflict country. Furthermore it will be an exploration of how producing and wearing silk play a role in the transmission of Cambodian culture, which narratives are associated with silk crafts as a living heritage, and how silk textiles are means to embrace a Cambodian identity in times of globalisation. 


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    History of Design, 2016–2019

  • I am a textile and design specialist: designer, researcher, documentarist and curator with a specific focus on Southeast Asian textiles, indigenous craft cultures, and local handicraft processes.

    A Fulbright fellow, I was a visiting research student in 2014-2015 at the MA programme Fashion and Textile Studies, History, Theory and Museum Practice at the Fashion Institute of Technology of New York, followed by a one-year fellowship in Curatorial Textiles at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institute. Prior to that I received an MFA in Textile Design at the National School of Decorative Arts Paris (ENSAD), and a BA in Graphic Design at ENSAAMA Olivier de Serres Paris. 

    I was born in Montreal, Canada, raised in Paris, France, and I am currently based in London. Currently a research fellow and PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art in the History of Design Department, researching on the survival and revival of silk heritage and craft practices in contemporary Cambodia.

  • Degrees

  • MA Fashion and Textile Studies, History, Theory and Museum Practice, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, 2014-2015 on a Fulbright Fellowship; MFA Textile Design, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD), Paris, 2006; BA Visual Communication, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et Métiers d'Arts (ENSAAMA), Paris, 2004
  • Experience

  • Research assistant, Smithsonian Institute Fellowship, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institute, New York, 2015-2016; Co-founder, Curator and Art Director, Ateliers Monde non-profit agency, Paris, since 2013; Independent writer on crafts, textiles, design, sustainability, since 2012; Online editor, Circuits Bijoux jewelry craft festival, Ateliers d'Art de France, Paris, 2013; Reporter on South East Asian topics for the TV show Ô FEMININ
, France Ô channel, France, 2012-2013; Textile Designer, Kenzo, Paris, 2007-2010
  • Exhibitions

  • Paroles d'Artisans, Traditions Textiles du Moyen Atlas Marocain, La Tisserie, Brandérion, France, July-September 2017; Golden Silk photography series, Penang National Museum, George Town Festival, Penang, Malaysia, July 2017; On the Line, British Council and RCA exhibition at the ARAM GALLERY, London, May-June 2017; Krama, Etoffe d'Identité, La Tisserie, Brandérion, France, July-September 2016
  • Awards

  • Pasold Foundation, Doctorate Research Grant, 2017; Arthur King Peters Memorial Award, Fulbright Program, USA, 2015; Fulbright Fellowship, Fulbright Program French Commission, New York, 2014-15; French Fulbright Alumni Association Grant, 2014
  • Conferences

  • Conference World Textiles, L'Atelier craft gallery, Ateliers d'Art de France, Paris, September 2017; Lecture on Cambodian silk, Textile Anthropology Seminar, Quai Branly Museum, Paris, May 2017; Conference on Cambodian silk, Khemara Khmer Cultural Centre, Montreal, March 2015
  • Publications

  • Chapter Traditions textiles d'Afrique, Ed. Philippe Senechal, Anthologie du Vêtement, Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art (INHA), 2017; Illustrator and co-editor, Fragile Beasts Colouring Book: 40 Grotesque Designs from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Eds. Caitlin Condell and Magali An Berthon, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, 2016