Mahmoud Keshavarz

Affiliated Researcher at Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology; Affiliated

Visiting address:
Thunbergsvägen 3 H
Postal address:
Box 631
751 26 UPPSALA

Short presentation

Mahmoud Keshavarz is a Research Associate at the Engaging Vulnerability Research Program at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology and Senior Lecturer in Design Studies at the University of Gothenburg. He holds a PhD in Design and Readership (Docent) in Cultural Anthropology. He is co-editor of Design and Culture, and founding member of Decolonizing Design collective and Critical Border Studies. page

Keywords: material culture mobilities design designforskning international migration critical design border studies (konst-)hantverk materiality socio-materiality postcolonial theory decolonial studies • citizenship studies design studies borders decoloniality design anthropology design philosophy

My research widely focuses on the politics of design and the design of politics. I am interested in how different material practices shape our perception and possibilities of (un)doing politics. More specifically I am interested in the questions around materialities and design features of im/mobility and borders.

My research projects at the moment are based on two different topics that overlap in the question of the design politics of borders.

First, I look at the practices of forgery and migrant smuggling as particular modes of technical critique of borders. I draw on ethnographic as well as design methods to examine and discuss different vulnerabilities appropriated for and exposed by such forms of critique. I examine what a technical mode of critique entails, how it is practiced and how it is different from other modes of critique. Furthermore, I frame these practices in relation to "the colonial matrix of power" which has shaped the current asymmetrical access to the right to freedom of movement.

Second, I am interested in the politics of humanitarian design in relation to border politics and conditions of refugees. I look into how different forms of compassion are materialized, mobilized and normalized through concrete design "interventions" and "solutions" and how they produce not only new biopolitical norms but also new political forms. I look at how designers imagine and materialize abstract notions such as dignity, compassion, empathy, humanity, etc. through their design works. By this, I look at the politics from which these design practices are conceived and performed and the politics these seemingly problem-solving products and services produce, ignore or eventually oppress.


  • Keshavarz, M. & Khosravi, S. (under contract) Seeing Like a Smuggler: Borders from Below, edited volume, London: Pluto Press.
  • Keshavarz, M. (Forthcoming) "Violent Compassions: Humanitarian Design and the Politics of Borders", Design Issues.
  • Keshavarz, M. & Parsa, A. (Forthcoming) "Targeted by Persuasion: Military Uniform and the Legal Matter of Killing in War", Law Text Culture, vol. 23 (co-authored with Amin Parsa).
  • Keshavarz, M. Citizenship in A Lexicon for Designing in Dark Times, Dilnot, C., V. Tassinari and E. Staszowskii (eds.), London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

  • Keshavarz, M. (Forthcoming) "Vulnerable Critical Makings: Migrant Smuggling by Boats and Border Transgression" in Design and Political Dissent: Spaces, Objects, Materiality. J. Traganou (ed.). London: Routledge.

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Mahmoud Keshavarz