The Paradox of Transcultural Design

by aashika jain


Hi I am Aashika
..Aashika Jain
..a female
..an Indian female
..an Indian female in her early twenties studying Design in America

What can we say about Aashika? Not much, we don’t know her. What can we say about ‘Indian females in their early twenties studying Design in America’? Well, Indians are intelligent so she must be smart, she must cook curry and rice everyday and probably worships cows.

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This act of abstracting an individual’s identity to a point that it becomes representative of a community at large with their set of affinities and belief systems is the driving sentiment behind a Stereotype. Consciously or unconsciously we call on these wicked armaments[1] for clarity, convenience[2] and at times for amusement.[3]

Yet, when in Transcultural   Design, we decided to confer a Stereotype’s true meaning, I was amazed at the reluctance and agony the course of discussion caused. The discourse did not yield much insight on how the class understood or dealt with stereotypes and we were generally apologetic about using them to elucidate viewpoints.

The premise of Transcultural Design is that differences among people exist. That these differences pervade a geographical region and vary with change in location. Yet, we are weary of being cast in one and we talk in defiance or fear of them. In order to understand a culture that is different from our own, it is imperative to build or adopt notions that can be tested. These notions are usually an impression of the culture from the outside which help us work inwards.

While exploring these notions I have realise that the search for differences among people led me to the identification of similarities among them. I see that, at the core, people are all driven by the same passions, the path they choose to pursue these passions and the value systems they build in the process make them different from each other.

Aashika is a contributing writer & MDes/MBA candidate @Institute of Design IIT