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Introduction to the blog series: Decolonial Options and Possibilities in Design and Engineering

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Introduction to the blog series: Decolonial Options and Possibilities in Design and Engineering
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Creating a space in the 4TU.Ethics community for reflecting on the colonial and decolonial responsibility of engineering and design grounds in a basic predicament: engineering professionals have been a central agent in creating the structural unsustainability of the contemporary world (Escobar, 2018). The basis of this predicament not only relies on the fact that through engineering projects, the “West won” (Eichhorn, 2020). This predicament is also grounded upon the internal normativity of engineering (Zwart, 2020), which, for decolonial thinkers, is foundational to coloniality design (Escobar, 2018). This blog series is, therefore, a space for discussing decolonial options in design and engineering. That means opening the possibility to transform engineering practice to support concrete struggles for self-determination and enabling plural ways of being beyond what the epistemologically powerful have defined as necessary, imperative, and universal (Walsh and Mignolo, 2018). 

Envisioning decolonial options for designing and engineering is an ambitious agenda. In this series' upcoming blogs, we will raise awareness of the risk of reproducing colonial legacies while actively engaging with the diaspora of indigenous peoples, particularly here in the Netherlands. The diaspora, organized in grassroots movements in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague striving for self-determination elsewhere, have little space in our technical universities as actors in their own right in discussing transitions imagined in our laboratories and classrooms beyond the spaces opened by Studium Generale (TU Delft). In the context of transition imperatives, we, a team of researchers from TU Delft and beyond, are engaging with these grassroots organizations to produce a “colonial risk” index for Critical Raw Materials as a third axis beyond the EU critical assessment only based on “supply risk” vs. “economic importance.” Future blogs will report on some of the developments regarding “colonial risks” and decolonial responsibilities. We envision this blog series as a way to push further conceptualization and practical application of decolonial justice in academic and public discourses on the ethics and philosophy of technology. While the very commensurability of the decolonial approach and engineering is certainly the challenge, our work on this series ultimately responds to the desire to be consistent with decolonial options and avoid counterproductive fixes such as “including marginalized views,” “looking for redemption in indigenous wisdom,” or “becoming indigenous.” 

We invite all members of the 4TU.Ethics Center, as well as others who are concerned about decolonial options in design and engineering, to contribute to this blog series by sharing their experiences, standpoints, situated responses, and critical remarks. We see this blog series as an invitation to others to reflect on their positions and standpoints and share these perspectives publicly via means that are accessible to a wider audience, like blog posts. We are open to different formats that are not limited to text only (e.g., artworks, video messages). For further inquiries, please contact c.a.benitezavila@tudelft.nl and a.melnyk@tudelft.nl

 

References

ESCOBAR, A. 2018. Designs for the Pluriverse. Designs for the Pluriverse. Duke University Press.

EICHHORN, S. J. 2020. How the West was Won: A deconstruction of politicised colonial engineering. The Political Quarterly, 91, 204-209.

WALSH, K. & MIGNOLO, W. 2018. On decoloniality. DW Mignolo, & EC Walsh, On Decoloniality Concepts, Analysis, Praxis, 304.

ZWART, S. 2020. Prescriptive Engineering Knowledge. The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Engineering. Routledge.

About the author

Camilo Andrés Benitez Avila is a Lecturer in the section of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology at TU Delft

Fatima Delgado is a Lecturer in Delft Center of Entrepreneurship at TU Delft

Andrea Gammon ia an Assistant Professor in the section of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology at TU Delft

Anna Melnyk is a Postdoc and Lecturer in the section of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology at TU Delft

Aashis Joshi is a PhD Candidate in the section of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology at TU Delft

Klaas van der Tempel is a Program Maker at Studium Generale at TU Delft

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