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The Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research

The Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research is a trans-local meeting place of people, ideas, and projects that share a commitment to “difference-in-equality” (Arturo Escobar) as the foundation of new forms of commons and politics. The Center’s practice includes fellowships, residencies, and workshops for artists, researchers, and activists in multiple locations, refiguring geo-political centers and peripheries.

CAD+SR Residency, ”Commonplaces & Entanglements.” Associazione Culturale Matilde Pianciani, Spoleto, Italy, 2019.  Photo: Chien Ying Wu

The Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research (CAD+SR) is an advocate for the importance of critical culture in challenging a global order that is predicated on immiseration. Its programs recognize both greater social connectivity and greater social fragmentation across disparate territories. Sharing our abilities and resources provides the crucial ground for effective resistance and creates new solidarities between people and more than human worlds. The Center is a space for new forms of cooperation, attentive to productive forms of conflict and friction. It is both theoretical and practical, a place of thought and action.

Multiple and heterogeneous ways of knowing

The Center is founded on the principle of the importance of multiple and heterogeneous ways of knowing. New and powerful understandings – including the formulation of social research questions and their answers – emerge when diverse perspectives are brought together for common projects. While on one level this is expressed as a rigorous and creative transdisciplinarity in the architecture of pedagogical experiences, there is an even more fundamental emphasis on pluriversal epistemologies and diversities of experience through sustained engagement with indigenous, diasporic, queer, trans, post/de-colonial thought, and emerging forms of digital knowledges, to name only a few.

Degrowth and commoning are both horizons and lived practices. As a set of ethics and everyday commitments, this means that research and learning projects are designed to create knowledge commons that have an efficacy in the world, resulting in new relationships between people and our global environments. 

Founded in 2017, the Center was conceptualized as a project outside of and in between existing educational institutions. It is an archipelagic (Édouard Glissant) program of convenings distributed across different places and forms to host people from diverse global locations; transitory, enriching spaces to gather and learn. Now after more than twenty research residences and convenings, held in collaboration with cultural organizations, artists’ collectives, and educational institutions in Italy, Colombia, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Turkey, and the United States, the Center serves as a meeting ground for a trans-local community of artists, researchers and activists.

Organisation and People

The Center for Arts, Design and Social Research, Inc. is a private nonprofit educational institution. The Center was co-founded by Dr. Dalida María Benfield (Research and Programs Director) and Christopher Bratton (Executive Director), and now operating with Mary Ellen Strom (Projects Director), Sybille Gorneille (Assistant Program Director), and Ea Domke (Program Assistant). The Center is supported by an international Board of Directors and Advisory Board, and numerous people have been involved in co-organizing the fellowships, residencies, researches, workshops, and happenings.

This description is based on excerpts from and with input from Dalida María Benfield and Christopher Bratton.


The Center for Arts, Design and Social Research website:

Michelle Song

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