The education of settlers: Maura Lucking, Settler Campus: Racial Uplift, Free Labor, and Land Tenure in American Design Education, 1866-1929, PhD dissertation, UCLA, 2023


Abstract: This dissertation situates the emergence of practices of building and making in design classrooms in the late nineteenth century expansion of the public college as an instrument of settler colonialism. In doing so, it connects both industrial design pedagogy and the new design typologies of the campus to histories of enslaved Black labor and levied Indigenous lands that have long enabled the American university system. At land grant universities, industrial institutes, and Indian boarding schools, industrialization and colonialism were concomitant; prescriptive racial identity categories were manufactured alongside standardized single-family cottages, faux Navajo rugs, and technical drawing and blueprint processes. The emphasis on self-sufficiency and manual labor by students, though differentiated throughout, aligned with narratives of respectability, free labor, and individual land tenure as political, social, and economic ideal integral to the nation in the destabilized years following the U.S. Civil War. Racialized perceptions of labor power were visually indexed through the commodity value of the designed object itself, an important difference from European theories of universal design reform that rendered the public college as an ongoing site of extraction and dispossession.Few sites are more associated with the spatialization of liberal values than the American campus, yet it is often interpreted benignly as an adhoc vernacular landscape. But the typology of the campus, as it emerged in the 1860s, was a purposefully didactic space, one designers approached using theories of environmental determinism to instill in its users both vocational skills and racial habitus. Moreover, schools for Black and Native students inflected the larger mission of the Land Grant system: just as physical university plants for the states were funded through real estate speculation on far-off dispossessed territories, the proximate built environment of the campus was often a site where federal policies were negotiated and socially tested. The dissertation tracks case study schools from their campus origins in the labor and administration practices of enslavement, the Indian removal and allotment campaigns, and the military administration of the Civil War. I underscore knowledge produced by these curricula–from the integration of Indigenous cultural practices within homebuilding programs intended for assimilation to the development of new techniques of drawing, applied ornament, and representations of labor that responded to the implicit racial politics of architectural style and new identity-based markets for Black artisanal labor and Indian craft objects. The dissertation concludes by tracing the afterlives of this model as exported to new geographies in Liberia and the Philippines, arguing that both industrial pedagogy and the settler colonial triad were integral to the expansion of American empire. The material and visual artifacts of these schools, as well as the practices of making and knowing intimate to them, reveal the contradictions underpinning this supposed model for an equitable liberal society.

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