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AFFIRMATION 5: Decolonizations

Mon, Nov 20, 2023    6:30pm

Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal (Decolonizing Architecture Art Research) and Denise Ferreira da Silva (University of British Columbia) participate in the fifth edition of the AFFIRMATIONS series under the theme of “Decolonizations.” The conversation will be followed by a response from Assistant Professor Ateya Khorakiwala and Associate Professor Hiba Bou Akar.

AFFIRMATIONS is an eight-month series of discussions with designers, researchers, planners, preservationists, and activists to affirm and interrogate how to think and redesign the built environment at the intersection of climate, ecological, societal, bodily, and technological crises and defiance. As a project convened to interrogate and affirm how to think and practice the reworlding of societies and ecosystems now, AFFIRMATIONS is intended to align evidence and aspirations. It will summarize and state underrepresented histories and possible futures that emerge from the cracks in the structures of power built on the interdependency of carbonization, extractivism, colonization, racialization, anthropocentrism, inequality, patriarchy, and technocracy. GSAPP students and faculty, together with a cohort of respondents selected from all around the world through an Open Call, are participating in the discussion throughout the academic year. Learn more here.

This lecture will be hosted in Wood Auditorium at Columbia GSAPP and live-streamed on GSAPP’s YouTube channel. The cohort of respondents selected through an open call will participate through a webinar.


The artistic research practice of Decolonizing Architecture Art Research (DAAR) – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti – is situated between architecture, art, pedagogy, and politics. Over the last two decades, they have developed a series of research- projects that are both theoretically ambitious and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. In their artistic research practice, art exhibitions are both sites of display and sites of action that spill over into other contexts: built architectural structures, the shaping of critical learning environments, interventions that challenge dominant collective narratives, the production of new political imaginations, the formation of civic spaces and the re-definition of concepts.

Denise Ferreira da Silva is an academic and an artist who writes on crucial global issues, which she approaches from an anticolonial black feminist perspective. A prolific author, her field-changing books – such as Toward a Global Idea of Race and Unpayable Debt — have been published by major presses. Her several articles have been published in leading interdisciplinary journals, such as Social Text, Theory, Culture & Society, Social Identities, PhiloSOPHIA, Griffith Law Review, Theory & Event, The Black Scholar, to name a few. Her artistic works include the films Serpent Rain (2016) and 4Waters-Deep Implicancy (2018), Soot Breath/Corpus Infinitum (2020) in collaboration with Arjuna Neuman; and the relational art practices Poethical Readings and Sensing Salon, in collaboration with Valentina Desideri. She has exhibited and lectured at major art venues, such as the Pompidou Center (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London, MASP (Sāo Paulo), Reina Sofia (Madrid), The Belkin (Vancouver), Guggenheim (New York), MACBA (Barcelona), and MoMA (New York) as well as 10th Berlin Biennial, Document14, 2022 Singapore Biennial. She has held Visiting Professorships at major universities, such as University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of Toronto, Universidade de São Paulo, University of Copenhagen. She held the 2023 International Chair in Contemporary Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Paris 8.

Ateya Khorakiwala is an architectural historian and is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University GSAPP. Her research focuses on India’s development decades. The work examines the aesthetics and materiality of its postcolonial infrastructure and ecological and political landscapes. Her current book project Famine Landscapes, is an infrastructural and architectural history set in India’s postcolonial countryside. The book shows how infrastructures of the developmental decades can be traced back to colonial famine policies, physiocratic theories of land management, and utilitarian theories of governance, even as these architectural interventions emerge in a contested field of cold war techno-scientific thinking. Other research projects include the labor politics and environmental histories of architectural materials like concrete, bamboo, and plastic.

Hiba Bou Akar is an Associate Professor in the Urban Planning program at Columbia GSAPP. Her research focuses on planning in conflict and post-conflict cities, the question of urban security and violence, and the role of religious political organizations in the making of cities. Bou Akar’s book, For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers, published by Stanford University Press in 2018, examines how Beirut’s post-civil war peripheries have been transformed through multiple planning exercises into contested frontiers that are mired in new forms of conflict. It contributes to planning thought by studying planning practice within a framework of past and anticipated violence. The book won the 2019 Nikki Keddie Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association, and the 2019 Anthony Leeds Prize from American Anthropological Association’s Society for Urban, National, and Transnational / Global Anthropology (SUNTA) section. Currently, Bou Akar is working on a new project entitled “Sedimentary Urbanization,” for which she received the 2019 Rockefeller Foundation Academic Writing fellowship.

This event content is equivalent to 1.5 AIA/CES total learning credit. Please contact events@arch.columbia.edu for more information.