Decolonization and Design

A paper co-written by Tristan Schultz of Relative Creative

“Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder. But it cannot come as a result of magical practices, nor of a natural shock, nor of a friendly understanding.” This provocative description of decolonization comes from the opening pages of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, written in 1961 in the context of the Algerian War of Independence. While much has changed since the onset of decolonization in the second half of the twentieth century, contemporary theorists of decolonization and decoloniality in plural contexts and across many geographies argue that the cessation of formal colonial relations between states has not undone the material conditions of colonial power. Likewise, movements of resistance to colonial powers have continued to develop new forms of practice and analysis that challenge the material configurations and associated epistemological assumptions of coloniality.

This lesson plan examines how we—as design practitioners and theorists—can make sense of the concepts of decolonization and decoloniality in the context of our own situated practices. Colonized designs—as materialities surrounding us and making our worlds—are those that adhere to the patterns of a Western modernity that laid the foundations for an epistemic hegemony of the West over other worlds and are materialized through early twentieth-century modernist patterns of knowing, living, and being according to certain universalized form, function, production, meaning, and aesthetic values. How can we challenge these grand narratives by bringing hitherto underestimated and devalued knowledge and cosmologies into design? This lesson plan—catering to both studio and theory classes—provides an introduction to a range of influential approaches to thinking about decolonization, design, and their relationship.”

You can read the full lesson plan/paper here.