Design Anthropology of Borders – Masters and PhD Course

While borders of different kinds seem to be everywhere, yet some borders are more visible than others due to their design; some perform heavier than others due to their distinctive material qualities; some are more lethal than others because of the way they perform; some borders operate not only to repress but to produce different sorts of subject, wealth and capital and they do so due to their specific design and materiality.

In recent years, an emerging movement in social sciences and humanities, including anthropology, is taking place which calls for a greater attention towards objects, materials, infrastructures and their performative, spatial and temporal qualities that recognise and consequently generate a different form of politics. Similarly, scholars of migration and border studies have payed attention to the performativity and materiality of borders for instance through discussing technologically and materially designed apparatuses regulating mobility and migration.

Following such emergence, this experimental course by weaving two modes of inquiry aims to provide a space for thinking and discussing as well as intervening in how the materiality and performativity of borders operate and what they produce through their designs in different sites and moments. Building on recent scholarship in anthropology of borders and design anthropology, this course aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice through multi-modal learning.

In this course, on the one hand, students will read the texts in which scholars and practitioners examine the materiality and performativity of borders in contemporary time. On the other hand, the course by engaging design methods of inquiry such as mapping, visualisation, prototyping, probing, etc. will include practice and project based explorations of borders in different contexts introduced to the class through lectures and seminars. Possible contexts for project could include but not limited to borders in urban spaces operating through logistics and infrastructures, gentrification processes, integration discourses and practices; geopolitical and historical borders operating through off shore visa policies, European border regime, colonial borders and demarcations, development and humanitarian work as well as borders in and by technological configurations such as algorithms, biometrics, surveillance, big data, drones, social media, etc.

The aim of the course is to provide an understanding of the anthropology of objects, sites and spaces as borders and bordering processes through implying different ethnographic as well as design concepts and methods.

The course was held during Fall 2017 as part of Engaging Vulnerability Program at Uppsala University, Sweden.

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