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Postdoctoral researcher awarded prestigious fellowship


Dr Karen Patel

Karen Patel of the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Leadership Fellowship in collaboration with Crafts Council UK.

Honing your craft

The project, titled ‘Supporting Diversity and Expertise Development in the Contemporary Craft Economy’ will run until February 2021. The project seeks to develop theoretical contributions relating to the nature of expertise in craft work, and practical outputs such as:

  • Podcasts with diverse makers;
  • A STEAMLab session at STEAMHouse;
  • Policy recommendations and social media learning resources for makers.

It builds on initial work done in Karen’s AHRC funded Creative Economy Engagement (CEEF) project with Crafts Council UK in 2018, which explored how social media skills development could support greater diversity in craft.

A career highlight

Karen has had a long and rich history with Birmingham City University, having studied her BA, MA and PhD here. The latter, titled The Politics of Expertise in Cultural Labour, explored how artists use social media as part of their practice, including how they signal expertise on social media.

Karen said: “I’m delighted to be awarded this AHRC Leadership Fellowship. It is a huge milestone in my career and I’m really proud to have got one, considering how competitive these schemes are.  My aims for the project are very much informed by the work I did during my PhD and the subsequent CEEF project on craft. I want to help Crafts Council UK work towards its strategic aim of supporting greater diversity in the craft economy, through addressing digital skills gaps but also demonstrating the nature of expertise in the contemporary craft sector.

“The idea of expertise tends to be associated with non-creative professions, and it evokes a masculinised, privileged and powerful figure. Yet the craft and creative expertise of women, particularly women of colour, is undervalued and often dismissed as routine ‘women’s work’. I want to explore why this is and how the concept of expertise can potentially be re-framed in craft and the wider creative industries, to address issues of inequality and lack of diversity in the sector.”

High standards

Karen’s mentor, Professor Rajinder Dudrah, said: “This is wonderful news and as Karen's mentor on the grant I will look forward to working with her closely past the application stage.”

Professor Tim Wall, Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, said: “These awards are only normally secured by postdoctoral researcher four or five years - and up to seven years - after graduation, so to have succeeded in the year after graduation signals Karen's very high standards. It also highlights the support of her mentors, Professor Rajinder Dudrah and Professor Paul Long, and the outstanding research environment in the School of Media led by Professor Nick Gebhardt.”

For more information about the project Karen has written an introductory blog post. The project website will be made live soon, but in the meantime you can follow Karen on Twitter and the hashtag #BAMECraftUK.