Making Trouble: Design and Material Activism

Otto von Busch

Bloomsbury

This is a terrific book. It is an original and timely intervention in scholarly and activist debates. It has the added benefit of being beautifully written. It has the potential to be an instant classic in cross-disciplinary research and contentious political practice.

—Vicky Hattam, Professor of Politics, New School for Social Research, New York

Making Trouble is a timely and sincere investigation of how simple, small, low tech craft skills may help to bring about change. Otto von Busch has written – and made – an important contribution to how each of us may learn to understand empowerment through craft.

—Jessica Hemmings, Professor of Crafts, University of Gothenburg

Making hacks into reality. It engages matter in ways that trespass, and can even threaten, the boundaries between the civic realm and the state-assigned laws. Even with primitive tools and skills, designing and making can break open and repurposes arrangements of power. The proof is that some crafts are so controversial—lock-picking, moonshining, shoplifting, smuggling, sabotage—that they need to be controlled or even outlawed. When designers and makers touch on these contested realms, they run into trouble from the state.

This highly original book explores how the material power of design and making can challenge arrangements of agency and domination. Removing the innocence from crafts and unpacking a series of conflicting cases—from illegal making to the strategic and civic use of crafts to manifest radical alternatives to the current order—it shows how designers and makers can use even basic tools to actively redraw boundaries between the civic realm and the state. By “making some trouble,” making can work towards more democratic and socially valid incarnations of civic togetherness.

Otto von Busch is Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design and holds a Ph.D. in design from the School of Design and Craft at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has a background in arts, craft, design and art history, and many of his projects and publications explore how making practices, and especially fashion, can mobilize community capabilities through collaborative craft and social activism.