queerying design

Doctoral Research
PhD in Design, University of Porto,
fully funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia); awarded distinction

Queerying Design: Material Re-configurations of Body Politics is a doctoral research that propounds a critical inquiry into the intersection of design practice and queer theory, where the interrelationship between power, gender performativity, sexuality, identity politics and material practices are unfolded. It investigates how design, as the material [re]configuration of the world, is an active agent in privileging and superiorising certain bodies while oppressing, inferiorising and marginalising ‘others’, by systematically reifying hetero-cis-normativity and identity-based segregation. Scrutinising the role of the artificial in engendering inclusions and exclusions in society, this research uncovers design’s direct contribution in reproducing the body materially—or turning it into material body, as body-thing—under the logic of modern/colonial/capitalist economy. In addition, it undertakes to undo this ongoing colonial logic and offers strategies to unlearn the ontological and epistemic foundations of design’s disciplinary—yet biased—condition. Drawing from intersectional and decolonial queer feminist theories and deeming designing and queering as two antidotal yet interconnected verbly concepts, it elaborates on a possible queered design approach that would act against the current material and corporeal regimes regulated by hegemonic power.

With the aim of ‘queerying’ (as querying and queering) design, the research operates at the theory-practice nexus, adopting a set of critically situated methodologies. Considering the concept of queering as undesigning, as a counter-hegemonic act to interrupt existing oppressive materialities, it unravels designed practices both discursively and materially. This material-discursive act of deconstruction, as a form of de/re-configuration, enacts on three different yet interrelated foci of reading and intervention: sartorial, discursive and spatial in which clothes (i.e. bodily artefacts, accessories), discourses (i.e. languages, words) and spaces (i.e. bathrooms, prisons) are examined in particular. With the body at their junction point, these three main lines of investigation epitomise how such designed productions segregate and regulate bodies systematically, based on binary identity categories. In a pursuit of possible forms of de/re-configurations of them, the research then ventures on the practice of deconstruction with a series of workshops in collaboration with non-practitioner [queer] activists who are directly inflicted by the effects of design. Through this, the research also offers new forms of collective un/re-making and epistemic shift for un/re-learning.

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