Of ‘Godziners’ and ‘Designer Citizens’: The emergence of designers as political subjects in Cape Town

Laura Nkula-Wenz
Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 2018

Over the course of 2011, the City of Cape Town bid for, and eventually won the title of World Design Capital 2014. This article discusses how the ‘idea of design’ emerged as a new governmental rationality and mode of subjectivation, positing the local ‘design community’ as an indispensable macro-actor of local development and policy production. It unpacks the various (self-)ascriptions and socio-economic aspirations pinned to the notion of design and its actionable subjectivity, the designer. While recognizing that the idea of design has raised hopes for innovative solutions that could help to address Cape Town’s most pervasive urban challenges, the article ultimately questions whether real change ‘by design’ can be attained without designers acknowledging and (self-)critically engaging with the political dimension of their work.

Contact laura.nkula@uct.ac.za for a copy.