This event crosses lands, seas, time and worldviews. Two researchers, Tania Messell in Basel, Switzerland and Yoko Akama by Narrm on lands now called Australia, will share their work to explore the histories, imaginaries and practices of ‘resilience’ in their plural, situated epistemologies and enactments.

Tania’s work examines the intersecting histories of resilience, infrastructure and design with a special focus on cross-border disaster relief practices from the 1970s onwards. As she enquires, how have logics of resilience shaped modes of imagining and governing environments and populations historically and today? Moreover, what can we learn about ‘resilience’ from history, theory and practice-based approaches?

Alongside, in engaging with resonant themes, Yoko’s research in contemporary Japan reveals practices that have endured over generations. What practices can we identify and call as ‘designing’ that are adjacent to ‘resilience’? Furthermore, what do they teach us about ways-of-becoming which entangle multiple temporalities and more-than-humans pluralities, that have been learnt by living with nature’s cycles of decay and destruction?

Over presentations, dialogues and questions, the researchers will reflect together on the significance of design and of ‘designs with other names’ (Gutiérrez Borrero 2020) in relation to modes of thinking and enacting resilience(s) historically and today.


Yoko Akama is a design researcher and educator in the School of Design, RMIT University, (in, now known as Melbourne, Australia). She is a recipient of several national and international awards and research funding for collaborative work with self-determining Indigenous nations and regional communities preparing for disaster. Her practice explores ways to enhance qualities of inter-relating, embrace differences and pursue plurality. While she has lived, studied and worked in the UK, US and Australia, her Japanese heritage and ongoing work with collaborators in and from Asia continues to shape her practice. She brings this practice to research, teaching and various platform leadership through participatory collaboration to address various entrenched issues and explore shared human and more-than-human futures.

Tania Messell is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Governance Centre at the Geneva Graduate Institute. Her research interests cover cross-border design professionalisation, the past and current roles of design and innovation in humanitarian aid and international development, and infrastructures of resilience. As part of the ‘Governing through Design’ SNSF project, she currently investigates design and humanitarian governance as they intersected in disaster relief from the late 1960s onwards. Author of several peer-reviewed publications, she also co-edited International Design Organisations: Histories, Legacies, Values published by Bloomsbury (2022).

For preparation
  • Akama, Y. (2021). Archipelagos of designing through ko-ontological encounters. In T. Seppälä, M. Sarantou, & S. Miettinen (Eds.), Arts-Based Methods for Decolonising Participatory Research (pp. 101–122). Routledge.
Readings & Materials
  • Chandler, D. & K. Grove, S. Wakefield (Eds) (2020). Resilience in the Anthropocene: Governance and Politics at the End of the World. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Grove, K. (2018). Resilience. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Glynn, K. & J. Cupples (2022). Stories of Decolonial Resilience. Cultural Studies.
  • Bonilla, Y. (2020). The Coloniality of Disaster: Race, Empire, and the Temporal Logics of Emergency in Puerto Rico, USA. Political Geography, Vol. 78.
  • ‘Disasters: Deconstructed Podcast’, hosted by Ksenia Chmutina and Jason von Meding,
  • Steffensen, V. (2020). Fire country: how Indigenous fire management could save Australia. Hardie Grant Publishing.
  • Kasulis, T. (2018). Engaging Japanese Philosophy: A Short History. University of Hawai’i Press.
  • Akama, Y. (forthcoming). Reciprocities of decay, destruction and designing. In S. Heitlinger, M. Foth, & R. Clarke (Eds.), Designing More-than-Human Smart Cities: Beyond Sustainability, Towards Cohabitation. Oxford University Press.
  • Gutiérrez Borrero, A. (2020). When Design Goes South. In T. Fry & A. Nocek (Eds.), Design in Crisis: New Worlds, Philosophies and Practices (pp. 56–73). Taylor & Francis.