Care-politics in design: Towards an inventive feminist research practice

Pennington, Sarah. 2022. Care-politics in design: Towards an inventive feminist research practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis aims to build a sensibility of matters of care into the practice of design research and pedagogy. It is written from the perspective of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Design Research. While care in design may seem to be a given, on closer analysis, the rhetoric of care is confused and underdeveloped in the discipline. Therefore, to explore a sensibility of care in design, I have developed a typology of ‘Carepolitics’ as a means to detect different versions of care that instantiate and operate in design, and have reviewed the notion of ‘matters of care’ that has recently arisen as a problematic in feminist STS. This body of work reveals care as an affective practice with ‘ethico-politics’ and speculative characteristics. I argue that the notion of matters of care has implications for design practices that have hitherto focused on matters of concern, as it offers a renewed criticality with the worlds that we study, construct and are implicated in. Consequently, the typology is taken up as an analytic framework as well as a sensibility for the practice research developed in the thesis. The practice research included in this thesis consists of a structured discussion on gender issues in design institutions, a post-graduate teaching project, and the search for a lost design research device. This is to say that the academy and my prior practice are used as locations for a situated inquiry into care through the case studies. Key to the research is a methodology that combines participant observation with affective methods, a ‘re-doing’ and revisiting of existing materials, as well as a responsive approach to ethics – a methodology that is deeply informed by, and indebted to, studies of care in feminist STS. Throughout the thesis I argue for ways of considering the multiple versions of care that are being enacted and reproduced in design practice and its outcomes. The difference a feminist STS matters of care offers is an attention to the limitations and constraints of an affirmative, gendered practice of care, and leads me to propose ‘inventive ethics’ in order to renew and ‘thicken’ speculative processes of inventive problem making in design.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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practice-based design research, practice research, care, matters of care, affect, ethics, feminism, speculation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 November 2022

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Date Deposited:

21 Dec 2022 16:20

Last Modified:

21 Dec 2022 18:00


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