The Society for East Asian Anthropology (SEAA) has recognized UCI anthropology student, Leksa Lee, with the Theodore C. Bestor Prize for Outstanding Graduate Paper. The annual award is presented to current M.A. or Ph.D. students who submit an outstanding paper based on anthropological research of East Asian cultures, or other cultures who have historic or contemporary ties to East Asia.

Lee’s paper specifically addresses the booming museum market in China—according to her research a new one opens nearly every three days—and how local officials and museum production companies work together to narrate the past and future of China.

“In the museum industry, small businesses contract with local governments to provide ‘turn-key’ services to establish new museums,” she says. “This means that the same companies that are conducting research and determining museum content are also digitally designing and constructing museum exhibits. It also means that new museums’ narratives about the past and the future are shaped by the interactions of local officials and small businesspeople.”

Her paper primarily focuses on a museum of city planning that offers attendees the opportunity to look at the country’s past as well as scale models of its potential future. Using this facility as her subject, Lee explores the links between economic and social progress and how public funds are utilized in this industry.

Lee will be recognized at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in Denver, CO this November.


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