Job title: Lecturer, Design Context

Role: Director of Ethics


Research outputs: Dr Rachel Joy Harkness on Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Rachel Harkness works at the intersection of social anthropology, the environmental humanities, and the arts. Trained as an anthropologist at Goldsmiths College, London and the University of Aberdeen, she researches environmental design, building and dwelling in interdisciplinary ways. Before taking up the position of Lecturer in Design and Screen Cultures in September 2016, Rachel was Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, working on the ERC-funded research project Knowing From the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design. She remains affiliated to this ongoing research project and team, as an Honorary Research Fellow.

Rachel is interested in learning from people about how they experience, perceive, care for, envision and create their shared environments. To this end, she has worked extensively with builder-dwellers in the USA and Scotland, attending to issues of power, art, labour, value and social imagination. Her recent work is concerned with architecture’s materials and social orchestrations, and the idea of thinking-through-making. She’s been considering the vibrant materials that make up the Scottish built environment, and the stories, lives, entanglements and skills that a focus upon them brings to the fore. In other threads of her research she’s been looking at the architecture of art schools for thinking about place and community and creativity, and also collaborating with colleagues Judith Winter (MMU, Manchester) and Cristián Simonetti (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) on projects to do with concrete and the Anthropocene. Throughout, Rachel’s research methods involve playful experiment and participation in artistic practices of making.

Rachel lectures on her work internationally, publishes her writing, and exhibits photographic and installation work. She has produced exhibitions, run workshops and seminars and, in 2011, also organised an international conference funded by the Mellon Foundation on the theme of the senses and environmental values.


At ECA, Rachel’s work is both in teaching and in research. Her teaching and supervision is on the following co-taught courses:


Course Organiser

  • Modernism and After


  • Modernism and After
  • Design and Society
  • Design Research and Context 3
  • Design and Material Culture
  • Design in Action
  • Design Context 4 (Dissertation)



  • Research Methods (MA)
  • Disseminating Design Cultures (MA)
  • Design and Material Culture (MA)
  • Dissertation, Design Cultures (MFA)

Current PhD students

  • Unfolding Dichotomies between Craft and Design in the Chilean Context

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