Politics of Design
International Workshop, 24-25 June 2010, Manchester, UK.
Organised by the Manchester Architecture Research Centre
In the last decade numerous STS trained scholars engaged in a venture of unpacking design practices. Yet, to study the practical course of design means to be simultaneously involved in the subject of politics and in the particular sort of politics that is centred on objects (Latour & Weibel, Making Things Public). Recent studies in political philosophy and STS have argued that politics is not limited anymore to citizens, elections, votes, petitions, ideologies and particular institutionalised conflicts (DeVries, What is Political in Sub-politics?), and have reformulated the question of politics into one of cosmopolitics (Stengers, Cosmopolitics; Latour, Politics of Nature) and ontological politics (Mol, Actor Network Theory and After). The “political” is not defined as a way of codifying particular forms of contestation but as opening up new sites and objects of contestation (Barry, Political Machines).
Looking to assess the multifarious ways design can be “political” and the various sites of politics of design, this workshop will explore a range of questions pertaining to theory and methodology:
To what kind of politics can we get access when we strive to unravel design not through ideology but through the work of designers, their rich repertoire of actions, their controversies, concerns, puzzles, risk-taking, and imagination? And likewise, what kinds of politics are embedded in the objects of design, with their multiple meanings of materiality, pliability, and obduracy?
How does design’s potential to bring an ever-greater number of non-humans into politics contribute to the re-composition of the common world, the cosmos in which everyone lives? What are the politics of the relations invoked by design practices? Is design “political” because it brings together land and NGOs, gravity laws and fashions, preservationists and zoning regulations, architectural languages and concerned communities, dives and stakeholders, land registers and modernists, and if so, how?
What are the multiple design sites where political action might be seeping through? How is politics carried out today in sites often unrelated to the traditional loci of political action: in building development companies, planning commissions, building renovation sites, urban spaces, local communities, architectural offices, public presentations of designers? And what can we learn from the different, even unexpected forms of concernedness that we may come across in such contexts?
How and under which conditions does design become one of the means through which politics is being carried out? How does design turn the “public” into a problem – and thus engage and mobilise it – triggering disagreements and generating issues of public concern? How do designers and planners make their activities accountable to citizens?
If the “political” is considered a moment in the complex trajectory of design projects, processes and objects, what are the methods we use to account for them? How can we map, track, trace and document ethnographically and historically these moments of becoming political?
The workshop is expected to attract a diverse group of scholars from the fields of STS, architecture, geography, political economy, environmental psychology and planning, design studies, sociology, cultural studies and political sciences.
Andrew Barry, Oxford University
Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Foreign Office of Architecture (FOA), London & Princeton University, USA
Applicants should submit a 250-word abstract and a short CV in Word format to Albena Yaneva firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to Andy Karvonen email@example.com by February 25, 2010. Accepted participants will be notified by March 1, 2010. Authors of accepted abstracts should confirm their participation in the conference by March 15, 2010 and submit a completed paper of no more than 10 pages that summarises the main points of the presentation by May 21, 2010.
This conference is organised by Albena Yaneva, Simon Guy, Isabelle Doucet, and Andy Karvonen from the Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC), the University of Manchester. For additional information about the conference, please contact the organisers through firstname.lastname@example.org.