Design Education and Learning

Promoting an emancipatory research paradigm in Design Education and Practice  

Lesley-Ann Noel  

North Carolina State University

Keywords: emancipatory research, participatory design, design for development


Emancipatory research is a research perspective of producing knowledge that can be of benefit to disadvantaged people. It is an umbrella term that can include many streams of critical theory based research such as feminist, disability, race and gender theory. One of the key assumptions in emancipatory research is that there are multiple realities, and that research is not only created by the ‘dominant or elite researcher’. Given the development of branches of design research such as inclusive design, participatory design and design for social innovation, where the designer interacts with and designs with and for people who may be marginalized for reasons of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, economic background etc., designers should be introduced to the concept of emancipatory research during their education, so that they will be able to recognise the impact of their own privilege on their practice and develop research interventions that are sensitive to this. This paper examines the aims and principles of emancipatory research, and uses guidelines on evaluating emancipatory research-based interventions, borrowing from disability studies, to analyse three interventions between designers from the ‘centre’ and artisans from the ‘periphery’, to assess whether these interventions can be considered emancipatory or not. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Noel, L. (2016). Promoting an emancipatory research paradigm in Design Education and Practice. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

This paper will be presented at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme