Mahmoud Keshavarz


Mahmoud Keshavarz

My research widely focuses on the politics of design and the design of politics. I am interested in how different material practices shape our perception and possibilities of (un)doing politics. More specifically I am interested in the questions around materialities and design features of im/mobility and borders.

In my current research, at the Engaging Vulnerability program, I look at the practices of forgery and migrant smuggling as particular modes of technical critique of borders. I draw on ethnographic as well as design methods to discuss different technical and bodily vulnerabilities appropriated for and exposed by practices of smuggling. I examine what a technical mode of critique entails as it is informed by smugglers and smuggling technical and tacit knowledge, how it is practiced and how it is different from other modes of critiquing borders. Furthermore, I frame these practices in relation to “the colonial matrix of power” which has given shape to an asymmetrical access to the contemporary mobility regime.

I have recently published The Design Politics of the Passport: Materiality, Immobility, and Dissent (2019, Bloomsbury) that addresses some of these concerns. Currently I am working on two pieces that expand the book project: an article tentatively titled Smuggling as a Technical Critique of Borders and a book chapter entitled Vulnerable Critical Makings: Migrant Smuggling by Boats and Border Transgression.

In addition and together with Rikard Heberling, graphic designer, I am working on a visual book that presents borders and their (in)visible vulnerabilities as a question of technical configuration beyond the discursive power. The book is based on court materials from smuggling cases in Sweden, interview with smugglers, Swedish police forensic archive and border security companies guidelines. Together with Shahram Khosravi, professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University I am editing an Seeing Like a Smuggler: Border from Below, a multidisciplinary anthology based on a symposium with the same title organized in October 2018 at Uppsala University.

You can read some of my of works here and see some of my artistic and design works here.

Check also my collective projects on Critical Border Studies and Decolonizing Design.