Design as symbolic violence. design for social justice

Joanna Boehnert, Bianca Elzenbaumer, Dimeji Onafuwa

University of Westminster, Leeds College of Art, Carnegie Mellon University

Keywords: symbolic violence; social justice; politics; communication

Conversation Overview

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. 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. 

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

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This conversation took place on Wednesday 29th June at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme


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