Craftsmanship as a Means of Empowerment for the Caiçara Population of Guaraqueçaba: A Case Study

By Renata Marques Leitao, Anne Marchand and Pierre De Coninck.

Published by The International Journal of Design in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The central proposition of this research is that design—understood as the human activity that creates material culture and doing so, transforms our living conditions—can be an important means of empowerment for traditional communities. This case study focused on a crafts cooperative created in Guaraqueçaba, Southern Brazil by craftspeople from the Caiçara culture. Since the region of Guaraqueçaba comprises one of the biologically richest ecosystems in the world, an environmental protection area was created in 1985 to regulate the use of natural resources. These regulations imposed severe restrictions to the subsistence practices of Caiçara communities, causing their impoverishment and a great damage to their culture. This case study shows the Caiçara population successfully striving to improve their living conditions by creating crafts for sale. This study aimed to understand how craft design allowed for craftspeople’s empowerment and the revitalization of Caiçara culture. The approach to data collection in the field was inspired by ethnography, making use of semi-structured interviews, participant observation and photos of physical artifacts. This case study had an exploratory nature, examining matters related to empowerment and cultural revitalization produced through design agency, aiming to provide the scope for future research.

Keywords: Crafts, Empowerment, Design, Cultural Revitalization, Caiçara Culture, Crafts Cooperative, Guaraqueçaba, Brazil, Environmental Protection Area

The International Journal of Design in Society, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.97-108. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.265MB).

Renata Marques Leitao

Faculté de l’aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Renata Marques Leitao is a Ph.D. candidate at Université de Montréal. She works at the research group “Design et culture matérielle”, which studies design as a means of development for native individuals and communities. Currently her research activity is focused on the appreciation and valorization of aboriginal cultures among both native and non-native peoples through the use of graphic design. Leitao holds a M.Sc.A in design and complexity from the Université de Montréal. She worked for eight years as a graphic designer in Brazil and Canada.

Anne Marchand

Assistant Professor, École de Design Industriel, Faculté de l'Aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Anne Marchand, Ph.D., is a product design professor at Université de Montréal. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental design from the University of Calgary (2008). Her research interests include issues related to sustainable consumption, alternative visual and material cultures, and localisation in the design and production of goods. She is also conducting action-research projects with First Nation communities in Quebec, Canada, to support cultural, economic and social empowerment through design.

Pierre De Coninck

Full Professor, École de Design Industriel, Faculté de l'Aménagement, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Pierre De Coninck, Ph.D., is a Full Professor of Industrial Design at Université de Montréal. His research interests include the systems approach, complex modelling, design processes, sustainable design, community development, and the involvement of ordinary citizens in policy-making. As the scientific director of Design et culture matérielle research group, his research focuses on how innovative design practices and strategies may act as vehicles for development of individuals and communities.