Arts & Culture

From the Edge of the World: Confronting Unsettlement and Our Ways of Being

From the Edge of the World: Confronting Unsettlement and Our Ways of Being

The Studio Participants
The Studio Participants

The refugee crisis, growing impacts of climate change, diminishing resources and escalating conflicts are leading to the physical and psycho-social unsettlement of millions of people.

Unsettlement is a way of describing our current human condition caused by our everyday unquestioned practices and the limitations of the way we learned to think. Our hyper-consuming behavior is resulting in the destruction of our world, making our civilization unsustainable and consequently ourselves. We desperately need a new positive vision for the world, and in order to do so, we must seek a deeper understanding of the complexity and the interconnectedness of these issues, combined with a practice of critical self-reflection.

Fire and climate
Fire and climate

Unsettlement is a general condition of the world today that Egypt has now been experiencing for many years. This most recently from the revolution and its aftermath which disrupted the economic, political, social, cultural and psychological order of life. Moreover, there is the arrival of refugees from Syria and Sudan, as well as the general insecurity of everyday life for so many people. Added to this is the arrival of the impacts of climate change, particularly in the delta, as sea level rises increase soil salinity and thus reduces agricultural productivity. So it is clear that unsettlement resulting from these complex conditions is changing the way that people feel about their life and the future.


The Studio at the Edge of the World, created by the prominent design theorist, writer and philosopher Tony Fry, organized a five-week intercultural learning event in early 2016 in Launceston, Tasmania to address unsettlement. The aim was to thoroughly explore and understand the complexity of the concept and to develop projects that respond appropriately, as a means and not an end. Participants included a variety of practitioners, students, academics and community engagement workers from different cultures and worldviews.

“The entire project on unsettlement drew people from Australia and other parts of the world. It marked the beginning of a larger and ongoing process to make the significance of unsettlement present to the global community,” Tony Fry, founder of the studio, explained.

What can be created, what can be saved.
What can be created, what can be saved.

“The fundamental reason for doing this goes to solving the problems that underlie unsettlement, we have to be willing to confront the complexity of their interconnectedness. This is clearly a huge project that has to involve many people over an extensive period of time”.

The event concluded with an exhibition on the 5th of February showcasing collaborative and individual projects and presenting the concepts of unsettlement, engagement and conviviality.

Colombian tea stories
Colombian tea stories

Examples included a project looking at the reception of refugees from Syria in Tasmania and a project exploring how design education could be more closely related to understanding human needs and values. Another project from a Colombian participant is examining the reinterpretation of the notion of the tea ceremony using indigenous teas as a way of storytelling.  Finally, an Egyptian participant is looking at future imaginaries inspired by the ancient and modern historical achievements of Egypt.

Recovering Egypt, remaking the past
Recovering Egypt, remaking the past

“The discussions I had here were invaluable and the connections I made were even more so. The crises we are facing in the world can’t be addressed without intercultural responses. I am looking forward to bringing what I learned back home,” said one Egyptian who attended the event. 

Projects conceptualized during the studio, will be further developed by individuals, and through collaboration, will bring the understanding of unsettlement to the creation of a future to be chosen, lived and worth having.

So, what unsettles you?

This article reflects the author’s personal opinion.

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I am interested in social innovation, thinking about global development issues and ways of achieving positive change.

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