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University of Basel announces a call for projects to South Designs—Planetary Futures

Submission deadline: June 28, 2022

How does the South design planetary futures? What do design responses to climate change look like when they are grounded in the aspirations and struggles of those most affected? How does design grapple with radical ecological interdependence in conditions of enduring injustice, everyday uncertainty, and rapid urban change? As part of the Governing through Design research collective funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, South Designs invites project proposals that address these questions through creative, collaborative, and speculative practice.

Rationale
The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is, in the words of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” The report’s catastrophic message and bleak political outlook, compounded by the Russian-Ukraine war and its global effects on energy and food, stand in sharp contrast to the social and technological solutions—aka designs—ostensibly already at our disposal for building more sustainable and just futures.

Against the backdrop of looming catastrophe, design solutions have increasingly gathered around a call to build and strengthen resilience. Politicians, planners, designers, development agencies, and community organizations invest hope in design as they aim to foster environments and subjects that can effectively respond to new levels of risk and uncertainty. Critics, however, have noted that adopting resilience as an end goal may entrench rather than undo political-economic systems of violence and marginalization.

The global South designs, obviously. It does so relentlessly and often with urgency. These majority world projects and practices, however, are routinely overshadowed, coopted, or suppressed by institutions that govern in the name of resilience, sustainability, or development.

South Designs starts from the premise that to carry through the promise of design against catastrophe, the South remains indispensable—not as a geographical location, but as an ethos of engagement. The project asks what resilience means when it is mobilized from the South, and how design can work for living landscapes and autonomous communities to foster global justice. Considering the colonial relations to which both “design” and the “global South” are tied, this prompt invites a fundamental questioning of design and points to a world beyond inherited geographical divides.

What we are looking for
We call for speculative proposals, creative research, experimental projects, pragmatic design inquiry, and narrative interventions that respond to these central questions: How does the South design planetary futures? What do design responses to climate change look like when they are grounded in the aspirations and struggles of those most affected? How does design grapple with radical ecological interdependence in conditions of enduring injustice, everyday uncertainty, and rapid urban change?

Proposals may engage with design in its broadest possible sense, including architecture, landscape design, spatial planning, environmental management, product design, bio-engineering, digital technology, media, and the creative arts. Topics of concern may include but are not limited to urban climate change adaptation, sustainable food systems, post-extractivism, extraction, water scarcity, toxicity and pollution, pastoralist futures, oceanic lifeworlds, indigenous ecologies, and resource justice, urban mobility systems, and energy transition solutions.

We are particularly interested in collaborative, relational, and public-facing projects that are site-based, community-based, or process-based and that can have enduring outcomes. Diverse project teams that bridge different registers of knowledge, practice, and identity are explicitly encouraged. We expect project teams to articulate the ethics of their Southern positioning in their proposal. The imagined project outcome(s) can be defined by the project team as part of the proposal, but it must have a visual or sound-based component for dissemination, with the copyright remaining with the producer under a CCBY license.

What we offer
Six proposals will be funded with a grant of 15,000 CHF each (including honorarium and production expenses), paid in three tranches over a maximum of two years. Each project will benefit from a peer network of support that will offer help for project development and execution. The final outcomes will be showcased through publications and an exhibition as part of the larger Governing through Design project.

How to apply
Please submit an application comprising of the following elements:

–A proposal outlining the project and envisioned output(s) (max. 2000 words)
–A statement about the project team composition and skill set (we want to know why this is the right set of people to work on the proposed project) (max. 1000 words)
–A concise portfolio/proof of previous work (this should be selective and matter to the specific project proposed)
–One-page Curriculum Vitae for all project members
–A concise work plan and budget (max. 2 pages)

NB: Applications must be written and submitted in English. However, the final projects do not have to be carried out in English.

Applications must be submitted by midnight SAST on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 via email to Laura Nkula at [email protected] (cc’ing [email protected]). Incomplete applications or applications submitted after this date can unfortunately not be considered.

Questions can be submitted to [email protected] until June 8. Based on this, we will also collate an FAQ sheet, which will be made available after the 12th of June on this website.

Timeline
Call launch: May 13, 2022
Deadline for submissions of project proposals: June 28, 2022
Notification of successful applicants: July 15, 2022

Project organizers
Kenny Cupers, Laura Nkula

Scientific committee
Michelle Weitzel/Wangui Kimari/Ana María León/Huda Tayob/Gautam Bhan

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