Design and Inequality: Mapping New Pathways to Studying Design as Social Practice

9 May 2017
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Mona Sloane & Nell Beecham
PhD Candidates, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science


Design is a term that is gaining momentum in social science research to explore how design actors operate in wider cultural and economic fields, from anthropology (Gunn et al 2015), to cultural studies (Kimbell 2011; McRobbie 2016), science and technology studies (Farias & Wilkie 2016) and philosophy (Parsons 2015). What is missing from the picture is a critical engagement with the ways in which design processes may embed and perpetuate (social) inequality: Designers are tasked with speculating about future ways of living and therefore engage in a variety of sociological practices, putting a range of classificatory systems to work to make sense of and design for people. Classing people as part of this commercial and sociological work is not only intentional, but socially consequential. It can, therefore, reaffirm or challenge inequality beyond the notions of class (Bourdieu 1986) and wealth distribution (Piketty 2015).

Nell Beecham will open the event with a brief introduction to the idea of design inequalities. Mona Sloane will then present two empirical case studies – one of architectural and one of lighting design – to illustrate how processes of design may perpetuate wider dynamics of social inequalities. The floor is then opened to an interdisciplinary group of UC Berkeley scholars who will respond in brief fire presentation to the idea of design and inequality against the backdrop of their research. This roundtable will explore how designers operate as social theorists, actors and activists, and engage with the current and politically pressing inequality debate.

Please RSVP here. All welcome. Tea and coffee will be provided.

Questions regarding this event should be sent to

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  CSTMS

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