Carnegie Mellon University
SJuri_PhD_DESIGN_2023_Dissertation-2023.pdf (7.25 MB)

Food Wisdom through Design: A transdisciplinary approach for sustainability transitions

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posted on 2023-06-02, 19:07 authored by Silvana Juri

Food, coalescing a multitude of our societal sustainability challenges, has the ontological power to make or mar the future of life on Earth. While calls to urgently and radically transform our globalized food systems abound, we struggle to discern how such systemic change processes should unfold in praxis, in ways that are appropriate for each context and across multiple scales. The plural and value-full expressions of purpose behind food practices and their transitions open and close different types of future worlds. Our challenge rests not just on knowing what could be done (system knowledge), but on deliberating and acting on why and how it should be realized (praxis). This transdisciplinary orientation demands different knowledges and a pragmatic capacity for moving from judgement to action— practical wisdom. The idiosyncratic and non-linear nature of this task transcends the rational, analytical and universalizable approaches inherited from the Enlightenment and resembles processes of synthesis, creativity, reflection and action akin to design. Emergent design practices that aim to intentionally transition societies to sustainability suggest that it is possible to leverage designerly creative, dialogical, and emergent capacities for imagining and realizing desirable transitions. However, while many frameworks and theories to support intentional food-system reconfigurations exist, there is a lack of case studies that report how these processes are designed and developed. This is even more pronounced in those that integrate design-informed approaches such as Transition Design and that are situated in Global South contexts. Through a three-layered case study developed in the context of Uruguay, this work advances a novel framework that can help design for the complex and fluid nature of these transdisciplinary processes. ‘Food Wisdom’ emerges a novel theory applicable for food system ‘transitions-in-the-making’ from a pluriversal standpoint. The framework reaffirms the contributions of designerly methods and skills, together with the central role that creativity must have when planning for collective processes of learning and change. The six principles that the framework identifies can be used to help nurture wise transitions by design, while still using food’s pedagogical and seductive power for approaching other sustainability-related complex problems.  


National Agency for Research




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • Design

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Gideon Kossoff, Jonathan Chapman, Laura Pereira

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