Southern manners in northern lands: Design interventions for autonomía


  • Pablo Calderón Salazar LUCA School of Arts, Campus C-Mine
  • Mela Zuljevic Hasselt University
  • Liesbeth Huybrechts Hasselt University


This paper explores how the concept of autonomous design, as proposed by Arturo Escobar (2012, 2017a, 2017b) and inspired by the global South, can inform socially engaged design practices in the North. The concept of autonomy is approached from a southern perspective, not (only) from a geographical standpoint, but in understanding autonomous design as a relational practice that supports the self-realization of communities. We will inquire what the potentialities and limitations that a southern approach to interventionist practices in design can have in supporting autonomous processes are. In northern literature, autonomy is often seen as counter to interventionist practices in design. However, a southern perspective can give insights into how autonomy and interventions in design practices can inform and complement each other and we will develop this argument through a reflection on ‘building’ Non-Alignment. Furthermore, by presenting a project we have been involved in during the last two years, we will illustrate the process of developing a southern approach of interventions in northern lands, and discuss the influence this has had on a local autonomous process.

Keywords: autonomous design, design interventions, southern epistemologies, non-aligned movement, participatory design, participatory action research.






Special Issue: Autonomía - Design strategies for enabling design process