(An Object Cultures Project Initiative)

PIs: Alejandra Azuero and Taylor Lowe

Designing Praxis

All too often, an entrenched division is practiced in theoretical work: the distinction between theory and practice. And yet theory is actualized in praxis, and throughout the recent history of social theory design has offered a field for praxiological experimentation and investigation. Thus, for example, Michel Foucault situates the emergence of the biopolitical within a transition from “planning” to “programming;” while Bruno Latour claims “design has replaced the word revolution.” If design provides a discursive field where the interplay of social theory and design practice yield provocative questions, can we interrogate both designers and design-theory without reproducing the practice vs theory dichotomy?

Given that social theorists in disciplines like philosophy or anthropology are only rarely positioned in dialogue with practitioners of designed objects and spaces, while the nature of praxis is the intellectual and embodied unfolding in a process of co-design, we would like to ask: how can we rethink the relation between theory and practice by interrogating the politics of design? What can designers say to the claims of social theorists? How can social theorists speak to contemporary design concepts and practices?

Through a series of curated conversations, "DeSigning Praxis" will stage public dialogues between practitioners of designed objects/spaces and social theorists. Design discourse and projects will provide praxiological media and designers and academics will be their interlocutors. Each session will discuss a design phenomenon that a design practitioner and a social theorist address in their respective work.

Dialogues and Speakers


Design as Pedagogy (January 19, 2017)

Robert Somol / Architectural Theorist and Educator, School of Architecture UIC

in conversation with

Orit Halpern / Historian of Science, Concordia University


Design Cosmologies (February 13, 2017)

Keith Murphy / Design Anthropologist, UC-Irvine

in conversation with

Taylor Lowe / Architectural Designer and PhD Student in Anthropology, UChicago


Design as Political Economy (TBD)

Alejandra Azuero, Lawyer, SJD Candidate in Law, Harvard University; PhD student in Anthropology, UChicago

in conversation with



DeSigning Infrastructure (April 2017)

Julie Chu / Anthropologist, University of Chicago

in conversation with

Neeraj Bhatia / Architect and Urban Designer,  California College of the Arts


DeSigning Globality (May 2017)

Nora Akawi / Architect and Researcher,  Columbia University

in conversation with

Shiben Banerji / Architect, City Planner, Art and Architecture Historian,  School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)