The 34th Annual Norma U. Lifton Lecture in Art History with Dr. Dori Tunstall

Thursday, October 06, 4:30 p.m.
MacLean Building Ballroom
United States
Headshot of Dr. Dori Tunstall by Omii Thompson

 Photographer credit: Omii Thompson (

The 34th Annual Norma U. Lifton Lecture in Art History-Dr. Dori Tunstall

DATE & TIME: October 6, 4:30 pm
LOCATION: 112 S. Michigan Avenue, MacLean Building Ballroom 

Title: Decolonizing Design: Dismantling the European Modernist Project in Design.

Drawing from her forthcoming book, Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook (MIT Press Feb. 2023), Dori Tunstall demonstrates how decolonizing design means dismantling both the technology and racist biases in the European modernist project in Design.  Through reading the city of Chicago, world expositions, and cultural-economic history, she dismantles the modernist myth of “better living through technology,” in which technological progress was said to help improve the lives of the [European] masses from the Industrial Revolution through the present. She shows how the lives of the European masses did not improve during the Industrial Revolution. More importantly, she shows how the modernist project’s technological bias was devastating to Indigenous, Black, and other People of Color communities because of its role in colonization. She then focuses on another aspect of her life in modern Chicago: racism, segregation, and discrimination. She explains how these social phenomena are also part of the modernist project in design and are fed by a myth that people need to drop their ethnic and national identities in favor of a universal humankind. She demonstrates how the “universal humankind” in design assumes a subject that is white, male by birth and social expression (i.e. cisgender male), European, middle class or affluent, Christian, and of abled body and mind. She concludes with a demonstration of how Bauhaus pedagogical techniques combined with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander principles might help you think about the fruitful dialogue between what is useful in European and Indigenous design.