Over the last century, much of the contemporary academic and professional discourse within the design disciplines have been, with a few notable fringe exceptions, surprisingly bereft of a critical reflection on the politics of design practice, and on the politics of the artifacts, systems and practices that designerly activity produces. Our premise is that, notwithstanding important and valued exceptions, the field of design studies as a whole is not geared towards delivering the kinds of knowledge and understanding that are adequate to addressing the systemic problems that arise from the coloniality of power. We acknowledge that this deficiency is a reflection of the limitations of the institutions within which design is studied and practiced, as well as the broader context of the colonial matrix. We understand the (re)design of institutions, design practices and design studies (efforts that always occur under conditions of contested political interests) to be a pivotal challenge in the process of decolonisation.
Moreover, we propose that a sharper lens needs to be brought to bear on the nature and consequences of design as politics today, extending beyond academic discourses to also encompass professional practices and pedagogies. This becomes imperative given that we exist in a reality in crisis – a reality on the verge of ecological collapse, the imminence of a post-fossil fuel world, rising political instability in many regions of the world, widespread state oppression and violence, mass migrations, growing global economic, gender, race and ethnic inequality…the list can go on and on. So far, mainstream design discourse on global platforms has always been dominated by a focus on Anglocentric/Eurocentric practices and ways of knowing and dealing with the world, and even within the Anglocentric/Eurocentric tradition, has been uncritically informed by the socio-technical politics of the mainstream – there has been little attention paid to alternative and marginalized discourses (around, for example, gender, race, culture, the production of knowledge, material practices etc.) both within the Anglocentric/Eurocentric world and especially outside it.
In short, our goal is systematic rather than additive change. It is not sufficient for design studies and design research to simply include a greater “diversity of perspectives” as a means to delay and offset demands for radical systemic change. While we support and defend measures to include marginalised subjects and our/their concerns in spaces from which we have been excluded or remain precarious, we also believe there is little point to diversifying institutions, practices, and processes that ultimately sustain colonial imperatives. Our objective, therefore, is to transform the agenda of design studies and design research themselves. Designers can put to task their skills, techniques, and mentalities to designing decolonial futures aimed at advancing ecological, social, and technological conditions where multiple worlds and knowledges, involving humans and non-humans, can flourish in mutually enhancing ways.
It is with the aim of providing a platform for all the voices from the fringes, the voices of the marginal and the suppressed in design discourse that we have opened this platform – initially as a blog. We welcome all of those who work silently and surely on the edges and outskirts of the discipline to join and contribute to conversations that question and critique the politics of design practice today, where we can discuss strategies and tactics through which to engage with more mainstream discourse, and where we can collectively postulate alternatives and reformulations of contemporary practice.
We encourage and seek decentralized dialogues, in which different voices can coexist in their difference rather than in an assimilated, consensual narrative. In this platform we welcome:
- Contributions from designers working at the intersection of materiality and culture, postcoloniality, decoloniality, gender studies, race studies, and other areas of human thought and action which seek to analyze, question and challenge the relations of power in the world today;
- New curatorial practices of designerly knowledge, that seek to challenge and disrupt colonial understandings in the field; that is, trying to propose, develop, and understand how designs for decolonisation might be presented, discussed, published, disseminated, and so on;
- Reviews, interviews, debates, podcasts and other forms of discussion and debate beyond the confines of academic language; other formats that can (or should) be understood as academic knowledge such as visual essays or audio papers are also welcome. This list is not comprehensive;
- Possibilities for the dissemination of critical thinking in design well beyond the canons of the discipline (e.g. design studies and/as epistemic disobedience);
- Critical pieces written originally in languages other than English; as well as potential translators in and to languages other than English.
- Critical pieces written by researchers, practitioners, independent scholars, and students in the process of completing their degrees and/or who feel they are marginalised or poorly supported by academic institutions. In other words, we welcome incomplete ideas, work-in-progress, and other forms of dealing with the questions above outlined, thus amplifying discourses outside the remit of institutes, which may or may not be projects enfolded in academic work.
Moreover, we seek to connect with already existing endeavors within and beyond the design field for a decolonization of not only academia, but all professional practices and pedagogies, in order to connect and foster exchanges of knowledge that speak from, cross, and remain in the borderlands of design and coloniality.