Re-sacralising design: investigating enculturation as ways of being for design education in UK schools

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths University of London
Department Name: Design


This interdisciplinary research explores forms of professional exchange between teachers and designers within the wider context of the cultural sector in the UK. The research analyses concepts of enculturation and post-Christian religious literacy to identify alternative models of exchange within design education and between these professionals. The study aims to enable design teachers and practitioners to challenge a secular-mindedness in the field which inhibits the ability to connect with culture diversity when it is encountered, and restricts design education to reflections of post-Christian secular culture. The opportunity is to reimagine design education by connecting with the full range of cultural values which exist in plural, diverse contexts.

This research argues that rationalism and post-Christian assumptions have led to an overlayering of language and discourse in education, and also in professional design and the cultural sector, which is self-perpetuating and obscures meaning. Design and technology is a subject underpinned by the sociological idea of enculturation, but the effect of the 'sacralised word' has led to a form of detrimental enculturation, whereby teachers, in a culture created by current language and discourse, reach for systems and formulae that relate to that culture but which are far removed from the purpose, practice and culture of design.

Exchange between the education, design industry and cultural sectors is central to the concept of enculturation in design education, and is seen at policy level as important for skills and economic development. However, this study argues that the three are not able to fully work together towards a model of productive enculturation due, in large part, to the silo effect of post-Christian discourse. Current forms of exchange between the sectors, which are often 'facilitated' by sector-specific experts, can deepen this effect and further a pseudo-rationalisation of design and design education as an autonomous process which is disconnected from the living cultures of designers, makers and users.

By drawing from theological concepts including inculturation and dialogue, in relation to the effects of rationalism and post-Christian assumptions on language and discourse, this research aims to develop new forms of dialogue and exchange among professionals from the three sectors. The overarching aim is to find out whether alternative theories and methodologies of exchange drawn from both religious and non-religious ways of being can reinvigorate enculturation as a process through which design and technology education can reconnect with the plural and diverse cultures within and about which it is taught.

Researching across sectors and disciplines, this study aims to:
x Critically reflect on existing pedagogical practices and contribute to educational theory which underpins these
x Improve the quality of design education in UK schools by disrupting embedded assumptions which reflect a Christian and post-Christian West, and engaging with the range of cultural settings available to design in a globalised and culturally diverse context
x Contribute to areas of interdisciplinary debate on culture and post-secular religious literacy

Research findings will potentially be relevant to:
x Initial teacher training programmes for design and technology, and potentially other creative subjects
x Design education teaching practice and professional development in UK secondary schools and colleges
x Gallery and museum sector learning professionals
x Design industry practitioners
x Corporate social responsibility training schemes across diverse settings
x Religious literacy theory
x Aspects of social and cultural policy


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