Diana Albarrán González

Diana Albarrán González

Design Researcher
Doctor of Philosophy

Meeting her PhD supervisor for the first time was a key moment for her, says Dr Diana Albarrán González who completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Māori and Indigenous Development.

“For my PhD, I wanted to focus on decolonising design with a particular emphasis on indigenous textiles from Mayan communities from Mexico. I initially started my PhD journey in the AUT School of Art and Design, choosing AUT because of its great reputation in the design programmes and research approaches.

“I remember attending the PhD candidature presentation of a colleague who used mātauranga Māori and his whakapapa as important parts of his approach. The feedback that Dr Jani Wilson gave on his PhD made a huge impact on me. She talked about the importance of using indigenous knowledge, in her case through weaving practices (tāniko), as a research metaphor and how this allowed her to conduct research that is not only aligned with her worldview but is also respectful to her community and whānau. This was strongly aligned with my views.”

The encounter ended up inspiring Diana so much that she decided to shift the focus of her PhD from design to indigenous ways of being and doing research, and to invite Dr Jani Wilson to join her supervision team.

Focused on indigenous knowledge
Her doctoral research sought to contribute to the decolonisation of design through Buen Vivir (good living, collective wellbeing) and the recognition of indigenous design, says Diana who grew up in Mexico and is of Nahua and Purepecha descent.

“For my PhD I worked alongside an independent collective of Mayan weavers from the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. We explored the concept of Lekil Kuxlejal (a fair-dignified life) from Mayan Tsotsil and Tseltal peoples, and suggested alternatives to textile artisanal design from a community perspective, towards a Buen Vivir-centric design.”

She thoroughly enjoyed doing her PhD at Te Ara Poutama, AUT’s Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development, supervised by Dr Jani Wilson and Dr Claudio Aguayo.

“The focus on indigenous knowledge and research methods at Te Ara Poutama fostered the transformation of my research from conventional research approaches to indigenous-led research. I enjoyed being able to apply and develop the knowledge from my culture and put indigenous knowledge at the centre while being guided by great and thoughtful supervisors. That was a unique opportunity for me and my communities in Mexico and Aotearoa."

Supported to thrive
She is grateful for the support she received throughout her studies, says Diana who graduated from AUT in March 2021 and now works as an associate for social innovation and change at Innovation Unit and as a professional teaching fellow in design at the University of Auckland.

“The support I received from the academic and administrative staff at Te Ara Poutama, as well as from my peers, was an important part of my research journey and completion of my PhD. I was also a fortunate recipient of an AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship, which provided the economic stability to pursue my PhD degree.”

She still treasures the heartful friendships that emerged during her years at AUT.

“Joining MAI ki Aronui – a Māori and indigenous postgraduate group hosted by Te Ara Poutama – was pivotal for me. MAI fostered a safe and inspirational space for postgraduate students to share ideas, challenges and support each other in our journeys.”

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