Design as Symbolic Violence. Design for Social Justice.

Boehnert, J., Elzenbaumer, B and Onafuwa, D 2016. Design as Symbolic Violence. Design for Social Justice. DRS2016, Design + Research + Society: Future Focused Thinking. University of Brighton, UK 27 - 30 Jun 2016 Design Research Society.

TitleDesign as Symbolic Violence. Design for Social Justice.
AuthorsBoehnert, J., Elzenbaumer, B and Onafuwa, D
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Design embeds ideas in communication and artefacts in subtle and psychologically powerful ways. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu coined the term ‘symbolic violence’ to describe how powerful ideologies, priorities, values and even sensibilities are constructed and reproduced through cultural institutions, processes and practices. Through symbolic violence, individuals learn to consider unjust conditions as natural and even come to value customs and ideas that are oppressive. Symbolic violence normalises structural violence and enables real violence to take place, often preceding it and later justifying it. Feminist, class, race and indigenous scholars and activists describe how oppressions (how patriarchy, racism, colonialism, etc.) exist within institutions and structures, and also within cultural practices that embed ideologies into everyday life. The theory of symbolic violence sheds light on how design can function to naturalise oppressions and then obfuscate power relations around this process. Through symbolic violence, design can function as an enabler for the exploitation of certain groups of people and the environment they (and ultimately ‘we’) depend on to live. Design functions as symbolic violence when it is involved with the creation and reproduction of ideas, practices, tools and processes that result in structural and other types of violence (including ecocide). Breaking symbolic violence involves discovering how it works and building capacities to challenge and transform dysfunctional ideologies, structures and institutions. This conversation will give participants an opportunity to discuss, critique and/or develop the theory of design as symbolic violence as a basis for the development of design strategies for social justice.

Keywordssymbolic violence; social justice; politics; communication
Year2016
ConferenceDRS2016, Design + Research + Society: Future Focused Thinking
PublisherDesign Research Society
Accepted author manuscriptSymbolic Violence Conversation - DRS2016 - July2.pdf
Publication dates
Published01 Jul 2016
LicenseCC BY-NC 4.0
Web address (URL) of conference proceedingshttp://www.drs2016.org
Web address (URL)http://www.drs2016.org/535

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