External News

20 February 2018

Chinese Porcelain in Colonial Mexico: The Material Worlds of an Early Modern Trade by Meha Priyadarshini

This book follows Chinese porcelain through the commodity chain, from its production in China to trade with Spanish merchants in Manila, and to its eventual adoption by colonial society in Mexico. As trade connections increased in the early modern period, porcelain became an immensely popular and global product. This study focuses on one of the most exported objects, the guan. It shows how this porcelain jar was produced, made accessible across vast distances, and how designs were borrowed and transformed into new creations within different artistic cultures. While people had increased access to global markets and products, this book argues that this new connectivity could engender more local outlooks and even heightened isolation in some places. It looks beyond the guan to the broader context of transpacific trade during this period, highlighting the importance and impact of Asian commodities in Spanish America. Buy this book.


Designing Disability: Symbols, Space, and Society by Elizabeth Guffey

Designing Disability traces the emergence of an idea and an ideal – physical access for the disabled – through the evolution of the iconic International Symbol of Access (ISA). The book draws on design history, material culture and recent critical disability studies to examine not only the development of a design icon, but also the cultural history surrounding it.

Infirmity and illness may be seen as part of human experience, but 'disability' is a social construct, a way of thinking about and responding to a natural human condition. Elizabeth Guffey's highly original and wide-ranging study considers the period both before and after the introduction of the ISA, tracing the design history of the wheelchair, a product which revolutionised the mobility needs of many disabled people from the 1930s onwards. She also examines the rise of 'barrier-free architecture' in the reception of the ISA, and explores how the symbol became widely adopted and even a mark of identity for some, especially within the Disability Rights Movement.

Yet despite the social progress that is inextricably linked to the ISA, a growing debate has unfurled around the symbol and its meanings. The most vigorous critiques today have involved guerrilla art, graffiti and studio practice, reflecting new challenges to the relationship between design and disability in the twenty first-century. Buy this book.

Have you recently come across an interesting book relevant to the field of design history? Recommend it to us - get in touch via: designhistorysociety@gmail.com.

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