Anthropology + Design: Objects, Sites and Systems

Graduate Seminar

Designers commonly use ethnographic methods, and social scientists often adopt design practices, economies, cultures, and artifacts as their subjects of study, focusing in particular on how design “translates values into tangible experiences,” as anthropologist Dori Tunstall puts it. The New School offers us a unique environment for studying the myriad ways in which these disciplines and practices can inform one another, and we’ll begin our semester by examining those relationships: anthropology of design, ethnography for design, ethnography as design, and so forth. We’ll then explore some conceptual case studies, taking up various anthropological concepts and concerns and observing how they’re designed — made material, experiential, affective; given form — through a range of design practices (e.g., from urban design and architecture to fashion and software design), and how anthropological concepts and methods inform those practices. Throughout the semester we’ll host guest lectures and take field trips (including some TBD!) to see these methods in action, and students will have the opportunity to conduct a final research project, which could take the form of a written research paper, an ethnographic report, or a research-based creative project. While this seminar serves as the core course for the new Anthropology and Design track, graduate students from across the university are encouraged to enroll.

Fall 2019 Website
Fall 2020 Website