Aarhus Universitets segl

PhD Defence Asnath Paula Kambunga: Decolonising Design: Futures Memory-Making with Namibian Born Frees

Oplysninger om arrangementet


Torsdag 15. september 2022,  kl. 13:00 - 16:00


Åbogade 15, building 5510-104 (Lille Auditorium)

Assessment committee:

  • Associate Professor Liesbeth Huybrechts, University of Hasselt, Belgium
  • Associate Professor Izak van Zyl, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
  • Professor Ole Sejer Iversen, Aarhus University (chair) 

Main supervisor:

  • Associate Professor Rachel Charlotte Smith, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University


Professor Ton Otto, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University

Professor Heike Winschiers-Theophilus, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia

The defence will be conducted by Associate Professor Iben Have

The defence is public, and everybody is welcome. The defence, scheduled for a maximum of three hours, will be held in English.

The dissertation will be available to borrow for reading before the defence in a digital version. Please contact Asnath Kambunga by email akasnath@gmail.com in this respect before 14 September 2022 at 12:00 CET.



This thesis responds to urgent calls to decolonising design, that is, dismantling the Western foundation of design in order to promote pluriversality and situated approaches to designing futures. The thesis contributes and proposes three approaches to address contemporary challenges and the scarcity of practical examples of decolonising design: (1) extending temporalities in design by exploring different pasts in the process of designing plural futures, (2) co-designing digital technologies to amplify marginal voices, and (3) creating and developing a safe space as a decolonial design practice.

The approaches to decolonising design are based on a research project with ten young Namibians ‘born frees’, born after Namibia’s formal Independence Day on 21 March 1990. In Namibia, the effects of the German colonial era and South Africa’s apartheid laws are omnipresent and continue to shape people’s everyday realities and futures. The born frees find themselves entangled within these cultural and political tensions and experience that their voices are being excluded in the ongoing debates about colonial pasts and futures-making. The thesis argues that focusing on the young people’s everyday experiences and emergent cultural and social realities, involving them in collaborative designing of public interventions to address contested pasts, presents, and futures offers new knowledge on how design could be different and simultaneously contributes to potential cultural transformations.

The approaches to decolonising design developed through this research build on the growing body of knowledge from participatory design and design anthropology, decolonising design and memory practices. Additionally, the thesis is informed by decoloniality and ontological design theories. Together, this body of knowledge provides the foundations for understanding the consequences of designing at the margins and for generating pluriversal futures in contested contexts. The thesis further opens up different design trajectories through the safe space on how such environments can be developed and possibly sustained beyond the research project, which in turn offers opportunities for future work.