CALL FOR PAPERS: Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – A Two-Day Symposium

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.

This symposium is an attempt to initiate a space of thinking for discussing the concept of intersectionality from the agency of design and designing in particular and materiality in general. It seems that intersectionality could be a useful method for understanding the politics and political agency of design:

How do design and designing participate and reinforce power structures in an intersectional way through and across race, gender and class? How can design and designing offer novel ways to understand the ways in which power operates in intersectional ways? And possibly how can design and designing propose ways of intervening in such complex and intersectional power relations?

We invite students, researchers and activists to submit their short papers, essays, notes and reflections with any desired format not exceeding 3000 words in total on the topic and no later than September 26 to mahmoud.keshavarz[at]

The symposium will be hosted at the School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University, Sweden on 14-15 November 2016.

There will be some funding available for few graduate students or early career researchers to cover the cost of trip and accommodation. If you are interested in applying for the fund, please state that on the first page of your submission.

Mahmoud Keshavarz, Malmö University / Linnaeus University
Ece Canli, University of Porto
Pedro J S Vieira de Oliveira, The Berlin University of Arts
Luiza Prado de O. Martins, The Berlin University of Arts
Danah Abdulla, Goldsmiths, University of London
Tristan Schultz, Griffith University


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