Call for Papers

DfD – Design for Desertification

International Conference 2013

24th to the 28th of June

CCR – Centro Cultural Raiano, Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal

Abstract submission deadline 29th of April 2013

(Abstracts can be submitted in Portuguese or English)

The main aims of this International Conference are to gather articles and presentations that enrich the debate on territorial consequences of rural-urban migration, depopulation and desertification. One of the consequences of several years of migration from rural to urban areas in Portugal, as it leaves the villages in the interior of the country depopulated, is cultural genocide. Design for Desertification is a research project that contextualises these issues within the Portuguese territory showing how economic decline, desertification and depopulation are interconnected and how rural development could present a solution to economic decline.

Idanha-a-Nova Borough was chosen as case study in order to illustrate the issues above more successfully and to use a real context for debate and analysis. During the last four years DfD contributed to the creation of a collection of works/data that register local traditions to feature in a Museum exhibition titled ‘21st Century Rural Museum’, currently touring several cities across the world to show the rural ethnogenesis of these people. The aim of this ‘travelling museum’ is to encourage people to build more intimate relationships with their own region and to be more confident in communicating their cultural memories to a broader audience.

What is the ‘21st Century Rural Museum’?

It is a travelling exhibition taking the Portuguese rural world to major cities in Portugal and other countries also affected by the phenomena of depopulation, environmental desertification and economic decline. This exhibition grew out of the research project DfD coordinated by the senior architect and curator Cristina Rodrigues and presents the borough of Idanha-a-Nova as a case study. This borough is located by the border with Spain in an area known as Raia.

Selected Portuguese and British artists were invited to create artwork about the Portuguese rural world and about the reality of Idanha-a-Nova in particular. The exhibition encapsulates their vision in a physical space where narratives and issues are brought to life in an attempt to engage the public in the debate about the importance of rural regeneration. This exhibition has been designed for the general public with the aim of renewing the sense of citizenship and to involve everyone in the debate.

A series of dislocated exhibitions of the ‘21st Century Rural Museum’ will take place at the same time as the Conference.


The abstracts should have a maximum of 300 words and should address any of the issues discussed above. Any abstract that exceeds the stipulated amount of words will be excluded. The successful applicants will be informed via email on the second week of May 2013. The selected speakers to present at DfD – Design for Desertification International Conference will have their flights to Portugal and accommodation sponsored by ParcNorthwest and Idanha-a-Nova Municipality.

Postgraduate research students and early career researchers from Art & Design, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Museum Studies and Anthropology are welcome to apply.


Please email your abstracts or any other queries to:

Myna Trustam: m.trustram@mmu.ac.uk

Respond to real-world issues

An opportunity to make creative contributions to desertification & rural regeneration research.Three fully funded research placements in Portugal’s UNESCO Geopark Naturtejo will focus on the fascinating village of Idanha-a-Velha. Placements will enable researchers to creatively engage with the unique traditions, culture and history of this area including its living traditions, local environment and more recent history of migration and economic change.

Researchers from across the arts and humanities are also invited to make proposals that creatively combat the problem of land and human desertification. A selection of these will be included in an exhibition and major international conference in Portugal that will be held at CCR – Centro Cultural Raiano next June 2013, with funding available for up to fifteen people to go and present their work.


Design for Desertification is led by the Senior Architect Cristina Rodrigues and is affiliated to a wider research programme in the region. Participants from any university or discipline are welcomed to the project but researchers working in design, visual arts, landscape architecture, museums or archives may find particular interest in it.

Three-week placements will be carried out between October 2012 and June 2013 in preparation for the June 2013 exhibition and conference. For further information, register your interest now.

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