Unmaking and ruination in design anthropology
Arvid van Dam
(University of Leeds)
Paper short abstract:
This paper questions dominant conceptualisations of design as an agent of generalised positive, productive change, and how design anthropology might relate to such instances when design as well as speculative imagination are tied up with ruination and irresistible abandonment.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws a portrait of a single village in the south-east of Spain. Once completely abandoned and re-inhabited when the Moors were expelled from the peninsula, the once prosperous village has since the 1960s seen a steady and seemingly irresistible trend in abandonment. The result, at this point in time, is that there are only 60 permanent inhabitants left. The resulting ruination of houses, irrigation systems, and cultural fabric is addressed with the term unmaking. Unmaking here appears not as a simple, careless disregard, but as historically self-conscious and selective, engaged and affective. By presenting an ethnographic account of the lives of people in the village and their relations to their material surroundings, I show that unmaking relates to stories of pasts and challenges the possibility of futures. In doing so unmaking is not hegemonic and coincides with both hopeful and desperate forms of making without which it would not look the same way or take the same shapes. In this way I question in this paper the dominant conceptualisations of design as an agent of generalised positive, and productive change, and put into perspective how design anthropology might relate to such instances when design as well as speculative imagination are tied up with ruination and irresistible abandonment.
Design Anthropology: Uniting experience and imagination in the midst of social and material transformation