Practicing Life Worlds: Theory and Reality in Teaching Design Anthropology Through Entrepreneur Collaboration


  • Fabio Mattioli University of Melbourne
  • Harriette Richards University of Melbourne



In the contemporary neoliberal university, practice-based learning is increasingly necessary as a means to foster dynamic thinking and bolster student employability. However, for students who feel like customers, this type of ‘messy’ practical experience is difficult to reconcile with their expectations and anxieties about the future. Students who embrace the ‘customer’ education approach expect their learning to be packaged in a manner that practice-based programs are ill-equipped to provide. Based on our qualitative observations teaching a collaborative design anthropology subject at the University of Melbourne, we unpack the various ironies and disconnections between theory and practice around practice-based learning. While experimental, practice-based courses such as ours entail multiple challenges, they are nevertheless worthwhile and necessary, not only for the continued evolution of anthropology but also for our students.     

Author Biographies

Fabio Mattioli, University of Melbourne

Fabio Mattioli is a lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Melbourne. His book manuscript, Dark Finance, is an ethnography of Skopje’s construction bubble that describes how financial expansion at the margins of Europe empowered an authoritarian regime. His current work is focused on the politics of innovation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Harriette Richards, University of Melbourne

Harriette Richards is a research and teaching associate in the Schools of Social and Political Sciences and Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, About Performance and Antipodes: The Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature. She is currently writing a monograph, Fashioning Melancholia: Sartorial aesthetics and the Settler Colonial Imagination.


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