Design, power and colonisation

Decolonial and anti-oppressive explorations on three approaches for Design for Sustainability

  • Nicholas B. TORRETTA Umeå University
  • Lizette REITSMA RISE Interactive
Keywords: Design for Sustainability, coloniality, decolonial, power structures, reflexivity


Our contemporary world is organized in a modern/colonial structure. As people, professions and practices engage in cross-country Design for Sustainability (DfS), projects have the potential of sustaining or changing modern/colonial power structures. In such project relations, good intentions in working for sustainability do not directly result in liberation from modern/colonial power structures. In this paper we introduce three approaches in DfS that deal with power relations. Using a Freirean (1970) decolonial perspective, we analyse these approaches to see how they can inform DfS towards being decolonial and anti-oppressive. We conclude that steering DfS to become decolonial or colonizing is a relational issue based on the interplay between the designers’ position in the modern/colonial structure, the design approach chosen, the place and the people involved in DfS. Hence, a continuous critical reflexive practice is needed in order to prevent DfS from becoming yet another colonial tool.

How to Cite
TORRETTA , N. B., & REITSMA , L. (2019). Design, power and colonisation. Conference Proceedings of the Academy for Design Innovation Management , 2(1), 204–213.