queer justice design


When designing new objects or experiences, designers make many difficult choices; yet the design principles they follow (design thinking, universal, and participatory design, to name a few) have already made certain sensibilities and products possible, while rendering others invisible or impossible. Design is knowledge production and it (re)produces particular kinds of white Christian heteronormative, ableist, western (colonizing) power structures. The world we live in is designed. Our bodies are also designed by the policies, procedures, laws, and histories of the cultures we live in. What then does it mean to ‘design’ our futures, our bodies, and our communities? What would happen if we extended design practices from products and experiences to design itself as an interrogation of current interlocking systems of oppression?

Queer Justice Design first disorients us from designed objects and normative sense-making: automated doors, accessible spaces, neatly packaged issues, and re-orient us towards the structures and systems put in place to begin with, such as the practices, laws, and policies in education, health care, transportation, and public health. It does so through my set of practices that formulate design as one part of community building efforts, as well as a tool for justice, and a process for designing new infrastructural knowledge practices.

Related Projects

Imagining Access

How do you imagine the future of accessible suburban transportation?
Many greenway trails were designed for recreational purposes, not for daily commuting. When transportation is encouraged, it is usually in relation to public health and climate change, not disability or economic accessibility.

How might we design a new constellation of accessibilities- across economic, disability, weather, and historical patterns that are already in place? How might we imagine it differently than it is now? Can we plan for radically different accessible futures beyond the private vehicle?
Explore these ideas in a series of workshops that will assess one section of a local trail through audits, conversations, surveying and other hands-on design practices.

Designing the Sick Body: Structuring Illness in the Techno-material Age

Dissertation, American Studies, University of Maryland, 2016)How might we pivot and turn towards outsider bodily knowledges to learn how bodies come to matter within and through the extended medical industrial complex? Using the concept of the embodied constellation, I examine what it means to know as and through our sick bodies — in relationship to data, information, knowledge — and what it means to claim that these kinds of knowing matter. Embodied constellations enable us to recognize that what we perceive as flattened constructs and single systems are instead a multiplicity of pathways and systems that may or may not interact with each other, thus knowing them in one way rather than another.

Using a methodology I call AutoEthnoGraphics I put the researcher’s embodiment at the center of the research as analysis itself. Such analysis demonstrates the chemical, biological, and organic processes of the sick body, and includes poetry, images, and drawings from 30 years of my personal graphic journal. AutoEthnoGraphics thus draws our attention to just how we are implicated in the thinking, molding, structuring of end results.

I speak to and share methods from ranging forms of trans-disciplinary scholarship. Grounded in my own work as an artist, I add American studies methods of ethnography and discourse analysis, mix in women of color feminisms’ narrative storytelling; queer theory’s analysis of outsider status, time, and failure; critical race theory’s unpacking of institutionalized structures; science and technology studies’ questioning of categories and their risks and credibility; and finally, media studies’ deconstruction of images and sound.

These tools, methods and concerns come together in Queer Justice Design, my set of counter-practices for pivoting towards the outsider while making these embodied knowledges central to communities of care. The central tenets and values inform how we move through and co-create these practices with others to shape more livable lives. Those who would benefit from a practice of Queer Justice Design are those scholars and community organizers working towards universal or participatory design, and towards feminist and queer justice. Those I invite into these conversations work in such fields as disability studies, digital humanities, queer theory, feminist praxis, and cultural studies.

Related Conference Presentations / Talks

Alternatives to the apocalypse: the queer sick body + communities of care
#TransformDH Conference
College Park, MD, 2015

Chronically Queer: the oddities of rare disease (non) diagnosis
Debilitating Queerness
the Sixth Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium, 2013