When:  14-15 November 2016
Where: School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University, Sweden

Today the topic of design and politics is not unfamiliar to designers or those in politics. Yet despite designers’ engagement in community-based activities, design discourse has not been able yet to produce a useful lexicon of concepts that could offer possibilities of acting politically through design. The reason behind this could be seen in various complexities and difficulties involved in such possible discourses.

One way to approach such difficulties is through an intra-disciplinary engagement not with the fields of design and politics but with the effects that design and politics produce through a series of internal, mutual co-relations. These effects are manifested and produced not merely through legislative and institutional practices, but through designed artefacts, spaces, sites and technologies. Ranging from gentrified public squares to high security checkpoints, from precarious production lines to everyday gendered goods, such material co-enactments of design and politics regulate and manipulate people’s bodies, abilities, movements, inhabitations and life conditions in various ways, based on their race, ethnicity, social and legal status, gender and sexuality. From this perspective, the concept of intersectionality can be a useful frame and method to interrogate how design and politics co-shape each other through power relations across race, gender and class, as well as other identity attributions. Intersectionality teaches us that politics cannot be only understood through rigid power categories but through a matrix of forces and relations that produce different effects in different sites and moments, with different bodies and positions. Scholars in postcolonial feminism have discussed the concept of intersectionality widely and have used it as a method to interrogate various sites and spaces of power.

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