Italy: design, politics and democracy in the 20th century

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AIS/Design Call for Conference 2019

The 20th century is the contemporary history timeframe within scholars are invited to investigate the complexity of historical relations between design and politics. Inserting us as design historians over the research field that relates design and democracy and using the connection proposed by Gui Bonsiepe between critical humanism and operational humanism, we think it could be possible to propose a reconstruction of the theoretical and operative spaces of design that intertwined, during the 20th century in Italy, with that of one of politics, social debate and democracy.

The purpose is to bring out, through a design applied oriented hermeneutic, the different subjective conditions of the referred Italian community in relation with the transformation of political and social conditions, starting from the presuppose that the design territory is placed into a dialectic and dialogic dimension, that which involves – as already stated by John Ruskin –, designer, production and society.

This interpretative action, made of individual and collective stories, into which design and politics met up and collided, should allow to reconsider the design role, also in its ideological aspects, as a result of a political thought, indeed oriented to the design organization of the common good.

Politically conscious abstracts are requested, about design actions and history, that could define critical and operative fields of action concerning design. Not only as operative or critical thoughts transcriptions, but also as researches aimed to delineate the possibility of an Italian design history hermeneutics of the 20th century addressed to the comprehension of its relations with politics, democracy values and their organization.

The call proposes two macro areas of intervention:

1) Critical Humanism: “democracy and design” or design vs democracy / disciplinary session: between history and critics /

– general theoretical reflections: continuity and discontinuity of the relation between design and democracy among the Italian contest (example: congresses, magazines, debates);

– methodology and critics: Marxism and design “the boundaries” (example: theoretical essays, protagonists);

– identity and tradition among design, democracy and history within Italian design schools of the 20th century (example: courses, student’s essays, collaborations between university and institutions);

– places and means – historically and geographically different or similar – into which the dialog between design and democracy occurred (example: relations with social design, participatory design);

2) Operational Humanism: “political design” or design vs politics / problematic session: between history and contemporaneity /

– different identities of political design rooted within the 20th century history that could become essential to the design for democracy into the contemporaneity: new political landscapes.

– parallel histories of political design: movements and manifests (example: public convenience design graphic, radical design);

– relation or divergences to be activated between actors from different cultural positions, but that during an historical period interacts or reacts with a precise idea of design for political and economic changings. The actors of change.

3) The fusion of the horizons: closing day with invitational round table


The conference welcomes historical approaches, contemporary and interdisciplinary topics. About these topics we invite those who are interested to participate with an abstract proposal (title; name of the author/s, affiliation and email; abstract length max 2500 characters) to be sent to the AIS/Design Steering Committee ( by January 31 February 24 2019. The Steering Committee will select the most coherent and significant proposals referring to the presented topic with abstract acceptance by February 28 March 24 2019.

Location: Castello del Valentino, Turin
Important dates: December 2018 call publication – February 24 2019 abstracts deadline – March 24 2019 abstracts acceptance
Congress: 28-29 of June 2019
Convenors: Luciana Gunetti (Politecnico di Milano), Dario Scodeller (Università Degli Studi di Ferrara)

Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in Call for papers, Conferenze, Convegni, Open
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Chiara Lecce

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Chiara Lecce received her MA in Interior Design (2008) and her PhD in Interior Architecture & Exhibition Design (2013; with the thesis: “Living Interiors in the Digital Age: the Smart Home”) from the Politecnico di Milano. Since 2008 she has been engaged in teaching activities, in History of Design classes and Interior Design studio, at the Design School of the Politecnico di Milano, collaborating with professors Giampiero Bosoni and Ico Migliore. Since 2013 she has been managing editor of the scientific journal PAD (Pages on Arts and Design) and member of AIS/Design (Italian Association of Design Historians). She is the author of several articles featured in various design journals. She is currently research fellow and lecturer at the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano, with a focus on exhibition design history and methodologies. In 2016 she was a tutor within the H2020 European project “Design for Enterprises”. Since 2009 she has been collaborating with the Franco Albini Foundation and with other Italian design archives, while continuing to work as a freelance interior designer.

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