Designing Worlds : National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization
School of Creative Arts
Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities Research Institute
Theorising Visual Art and Design
Art and Design
Contemporary design is simultaneously global, regional and national. ‘Italian’ cars, for example, may be designed by Britons and Brazilians and manufactured in Poland and Pakistan, on behalf of multi-national owners, for consumption in Switzerland and Swaziland. At the same time, international developments in higher education, the continuing influence of post-colonial theory, and the contemporary focus on sustainability, have led design historians to critique a bias towards Western industrialised nations based on a definition of design derived from its separation from industrial manufacture. Design historians are now looking further afield in writing Global Design History (to use the title of a 2011 anthology). National histories are criticised as unsuited to a new ‘global gaze’ in which contemporary society and historical narratives are to be freed from the geo-political straightjacket of nation states. Appadurai (1996) has even claimed that the nation state has become obsolete as a marker of identity construction. Is the nation simply imagined (Anderson, 1983), a modern myth, as Ernest Gellner (1983) claimed? Or can this admittedly complex construction still be a valuable framework for histories of design? The nation state is no longer the only socio-cultural or political-economic unit forming our identities and experiences, but national and regional histories of design have demonstrated cogent frameworks for the discussion of common socio-economic, cultural and identity issues. With contributions from all five continents, this book will provide a timely examination of the historiographic value of national frameworks and ask whether moves to discard them are premature.