Public Knowledge: Design Struggles
Antiracist Futures – Reclaiming Design Pedagogy
A conversation led by Sria Chatterjee with Tanveer Ahmed, Zoy Anastassakis and Griselda Flesler about design pedagogy that explores how interlinked structures of oppression affects our lives and practices. By questioning our assumptions and privileges inside and outside the classroom and studio, we grapple with how concepts such as anti-racism, decolonization, pluriversality, feminist design translate into processes of practice, learning and teaching.
This discussion is informed and inspired by the recent publication Design Struggles: Intersecting Histories, Pedagogies, and Perspectives, edited by Claudia Mareis and Nina Paim, and published by Valiz.
Tanveer Ahmed, after many frustrating years of learning and teaching dominant capitalist models of fashion design, began a part-time Ph.D. at the Open University, UK, to investigate ways of teaching antiracist and anti-capitalist forms of fashion design. Inspired by Black feminist literature and decolonizing education movements, she has drawn on her family histories and identity to offer students ways of disrupting the Eurocentric and neoliberal agendas that dominate fashion design education. The project described in her essay, by centring a garment from the Global South, has helped students question the dominance of European fashion design in their curricula and resources. Her long-term aspiration is to contribute to fashion design educational paradigms by generating new antiracist, post-capital agendas in fashion design. She is currently a visiting lecturer in design at Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art, London.
Zoy Anastassakis is a Brazilian designer and anthropologist. She is associate professor and former director of the Superior School of Industrial Design, State University of Rio de Janeiro (ESDI/UERJ), where she coordinates the Design and Anthropology Lab (LaDA). In 2014, she published Triunfos e Impasses: Lina Bo Bardi, Aloisio Magalhães e o design no Brasil. In 2018, she was invited as a visiting researcher in the Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where she took part in the research project “Knowing from the Inside,” coordinated by Tim Ingold. Since 2019, she is an associated researcher at the Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA) at Nova University, Lisbon, Portugal. In 2020, she published the book Refazendo tudo: Confabulações em meio aos cupins na universidade. Together with Marcos Martins, she is preparing a book on the ESDI Aberta movement, to be published in 2021 by Bloomsbury, in the series Designing in Dark Times.
Sria Chatterjee is an art historian and environmental humanities scholar. She is currently a Researcher at the Institute of Experimental Design and Media, FHNW and Associate Scholar at the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz. Sria is a Contributing Editor at British Art Studies, the open access peer-reviewed journal co-published by the Paul Mellon Centre and the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven. She holds a PhD from Princeton University and was awarded the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship in 2019. She publishes widely in both peer-reviewed journals and for more public-facing venues.
Griselda Flesler is a tenured professor at the Chair of Design and Gender Studies in the Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism; principal researcher at the American Art Institute; and a Ph.D. candidate in Social Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Being raised in a feminist household on the one hand, and having acquired a predominately Eurocentric graphic design education that didn’t relate to the Argentinian reality on the other, Flesler has started researching design as a space for the construction and reproduction of gender relations, applying an intersectional lens. Her research focuses on the symbolic violence of the university space and the queer uses of institutional and public space. Flesler also serves as Head of Gender Office at FADU-UBA, developing and applying the “Protocol of Institutional Intervention in the Case of Complaints of Gender Violence, Sexual Harassment, and Gender Discrimination.”
Claudia Mareis is a design researcher and cultural scientist with a background in design practice. Since 2021, she has been Professor of Design and History of Knowledge at the Department of Cultural History and Theory at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Since 2019 she is one of the deputies of the Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material”, located at the same university. From 2013 to 2021, she directed the Institute for Experimental Design and Media Cultures (IXDM) as well as the Critical Media Lab at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel. At IXDM she has built up an interdisciplinary research group converging Design, Media Arts, Anthropology, Historical Studies, and Technology. Her research interests include history, theory and methodology of design in the 20th century, knowledge cultures in design, experimental design and media practices, cultural history of creativity, design and material politics. She is working on a critical cultural history of creativity and is about to complete a comprehensive monograph on the history of creative techniques in the post-war period.
Nina Paim (she/her) is a Brazilian designer, researcher, curator, educator and activist. Her work revolves around notions of directing, supporting, and collaborating . She was born in Nova Friburgo 168 years after Swiss settler-colonialists displaced indigenous puris, coroados, and guarus. Love and fate brought her to Basel, where she now seeks to transmute her daily immigrant anger into care practices of making space. She curated the exhibition “Taking a Line for a Walk” at the 2014 Brno Design Biennial, and co-curated “Department of Non-Binaries” at the 2018 Fikra Design Biennial. Nina has served as the program coordinator for the 2018 Swiss Design Network conference “Beyond Change” and she also co-edited its resulting 2021 publication Design Struggles. Between 2018–2020, Nina also co-led the design research practice common-interest. A two-time recipient of the Swiss Design Award, she is currently a PhD candidate at the Laboratory of Design and Anthropology of Esdi/Uerj, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and director of the feminist platform for design-politics Futuress.