Pivot 2021 Virtual Conference July 22-23 2021
Dismantling Reassembling - tools for alternative futures

Solidarity as a principle for antisystemic design processes: two cases of alliance with social struggles in Brazil

In this essay, we present a critique of the concept of “empathy” developed by Human-Centered Design and Design Thinking as design approaches. Responding to that, we rely on the concept of “solidarity” conceived by Paulo Freire (1967; 2015) in order to outline antisystemic practices in design. We defend solidarity as an ethical principle and an act of political responsibility that should guide engaged and politicized design processes. To support our argument, we present two experiences where we live solidarity-in-praxis while promoting design engagements in Brazil. The first is a designer alliance with a collective of peripheral youngsters at the Terra Firme neighbourhood in Belém, Pará, in the northern part of Brazil. The other is an alliance with a national-wide popular education initiative that works with women’s political education in Brazil within the feminist movement. In analysing these experiences, we borrow Freire’s suggestion and argue for solidarity, as opposed to empathy, to truly politicize design processes.

empathy; solidarity; Paulo Freire; design engagements in Brazil

About Bibiana Oliveira Serpa and Såmia Batista

Bibiana Oliveira Serpa is a PhD candidate in Design at ESDI/UERJ and a co-founder of the Design and Oppression Network. She is a small-town girl from the rural interior of southern Brazil, who always felt out of place in the conservative environment where she grew up. Since college, she has participated in political organizations of the student movement and currently she is an feminist militant and a social educator at the Universidade Livre Feminista, a popular education initiative focused on promoting political education among women belonging to social movements in Brazil. She has experience in participatory projects and design for community emancipation in different locations in Latin America. Her research associates participatory design approaches to politicization actions within social movements and seeks to understand ways for an engaged design practice having as reference popular education and anti-racist and anti-capitalist feminism. She is co-editor of the International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice and Peace, an interdisciplinary project that seeks, through multiple languages, to disseminate scientific reflections informed by practices within popular technology movements.

Sâmia Batista is a designer and professor at a public university in northern Brazil. She is a PhD candidate in Design at ESDI/UERJ and co-founder of the Design and Oppression network. She started her career in advertising due to the lack of design courses in her city, Belém-Pará. She took a post-graduation course in Design in São Paulo and, back in her hometown, she started working with design for sustainability, intermediating partnerships between big companies and community groups, applying participatory design to strengthen the associativism and cooperativism of traditional communities. She got her master’s degree in Communication, Languages and Culture researching about mediation processes conducted by designers in the Amazon with traditional communities. Her PhD research seeks to understand how design collaborates with the development of autonomy processes with cultural collectives that fight against social inequality. This year she will graduate as a popular educator from Unipop – Popular University Institute, in Belém.

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