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The Right to Design: A purposeful misreading

Conference contribution
Authors Henric Benesch
Onkar Kular
Published in The 3rd Biennial PARSE Research Conference (Nov 13-15 2019): Human
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Design and Crafts
Language en
Keywords Design, rights, design education, de-institutionalizing, de-parochialising & de-disciplining
Subject categories Design, Law and Society, Learning


"The Right to Design is the proposal for a purposeful misreading of Arjun Appadurai’s 2006 paper, The Right to Research, Globalisation, Societies and Education. The ambition is to interrogate how the subject of design can be considered beyond current epistemic, institutional and disciplinary demarcations, not only as a basic human capacity, but as a ‘right’ in itself, which not only challenges those very structures which sorts ‘Design’ from ‘design’, but also raises urgent questions of what it might mean to be (seen & included) and act as human in a fundamentally troubled world. In the introduction to his paper Appadurai states: ‘Research is normally seen as a high-end, technical activity, available by training and class background to specialists in education, the sciences and related professional fields. It is rarely seen as a capacity with democratic potential, much less as belonging to the family of rights. In this paper, I will argue that it is worth regarding research as a right, albeit of a special kind. This argument requires us to recognise that research is a specialised name for a generalised capacity, the capacity to make disciplined inquiries into those things we need to know, but do not know yet. All human beings are, in this sense, researchers, since all human beings make decisions that require them to make systematic forays beyond their current knowledge horizons.’ The reading begins by straightforwardly replacing ‘research’ with ‘design’ within Appadurai’s text to consider the potential (‘albeit of a special kind’) of extending and stretching Appadurai’s logic of ‘rights to research’ to that of ‘rights to design’. By stretching the logic, the reading attempts to situate the question of ‘Designs’ relationship to human (and non-human) rights and to subsequently use the reading to reconsider, speculate and imagine ‘What is ’and ‘Could be’ the Right to Design? With this in mind the misreading will work with and through concepts such as de-institutionalizing, de-parochialising and de-disciplining with a particular focus on education."

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