Hi Sheila, thanks for the response. The piece was not meant to be an attack on any specific individual or institution. It was a general critique on several levels:

  1. a critique of the definitions of decoloniality and decolonization (which, as I’d pointed out, are very specific and must be distinguished from other approaches in cultural theory: postcoloniality, transcoloniality, subaltern studies, diaspora\transnational theory etc.) — decoloniality as a concept has a very specific history and means a very specific framing of the legacy of colonialism (which itself is distinguished from ‘coloniality’). This extends to ideas in design about how to deal with issues of indigeniety and culture (how is respectful design decolonial, and if it isn’t, then what distinguishes it from decolonial design?). I pointed out that the way that the article lays out its definitions and frames decoloniality is problematic because they don’t really have anything to do with the way the terms are used in cultural theory. The AIGA article never talks about what decoloniality is and how OCAD’s approach is specifically decolonial. Any scholar studying cultural theory and especially decoloniality from a humanities or social sciences perspective would point this out. I find it problematic because it shows that the terms have just been taken and transported into design without any real understanding of what they mean. What I’m asking for above is more nuanced and complex arguments when it comes to talking about culture, coloniality, politics of race, ethnicity, indigeniety etc., not more simple, reductive ones.

I’m not saying that hiring indigenous candidates, or more people of color, is a bad thing — it is probably a good thing at OCAD. But what I will say is that at precisely this important moment in design discourse when these issues of culture, politics, ethics etc. are finally being raised we need to be very careful and start asking really hard questions about the nature of our discipline (that design may in fact be, by its very definition and given its history, a field that is a product of coloniality and that colonizes) and about ourselves and our relation to our field and to the larger social, cultural, economic and political systems that we are a part of. The AIGA article is poorly researched and probably does a bad job of representing the initiatives underway at OCAD. Critique and debate at this point should be something welcome, and not something to shy away from — that was the entire point of establishing the Decolonizing Design platform as an open platform.

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PhD Candidate, Design Studies || Carnegie Mellon University || Design from the Global South || Modernity\Coloniality, South Asian Technics, Power

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Ahmed Ansari

Ahmed Ansari

PhD Candidate, Design Studies || Carnegie Mellon University || Design from the Global South || Modernity\Coloniality, South Asian Technics, Power