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Beautiful Justice: The Aesthetics of Oppression and Freedom


Tuesday, April 14, 2020 | 1:00–2:30 p.m.
School of Education, Tribute Room


What role does aesthetics play in the struggle for social justice? Aesthetic judgments saturate our interactions with media, from billion-dollar advertising campaigns to texts from ancient philosophy. However, aesthetics also play a crucial role in our lived experience of oppression and freedom. From the racist claims for white beauty as superior genetics to the liberating music inspirations of reggae, hip-hop, and soul, the aesthetic dimensions of struggles for social justice, and the hidden politics behind aesthetic perceptions, have received little attention. This presentation revisits the historical and cross-disciplinary conversations around aesthetics as beauty through form and function and introduces beautiful justice, a design framework that aims to extend the discussion to include justice.

Audrey Bennett is a former Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a former College Art Association Professional Development Fellow. Currently, she is a tenured professor and University Diversity and Social Transformation professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan where teaches and conducts research in design. She studies the user-centered design of multimodal and intersensory images for communication across cultures. Her research publications include: How Design Education Can Use Generative Play to Innovate for Social Change (International Journal of Design); Engendering Interaction with Images (Intellect/University of Chicago Press); The Rise of Research in Graphic Design (PAPress); Interactive Aesthetics (Design Issues); Good Design is Good Social Change (Visible Language). She is the co-editor of the Icograda Design Education Manifesto 2011, and a member of the Editorial Boards of the journals Image and Text (South Africa), Communication Design: Interdisciplinary and Graphic Design Research (Canada), and New Design Ideas (Azerbaijan). She holds an MFA in graphic design from Yale University.


Co-sponsored by the Stamps School of Art & Design.

The NCID Research and Scholarship Seminar Series features scholars who advance our understanding of historical and contemporary social issues related to identity, difference, culture, representation, power, oppression, and inequality. The series also highlights how research and scholarship can address current and contemporary social issues.