Design and the Humanities: A Ground for Reimagining Disciplines

The humanities and the social sciences have been with us for more than a century. They have been interrogated from various positions—nationalist, nativist—for their values (cognitive or otherwise). They seem to have survived all these trials and yet questions about their value or usefulness have not gone away.   In the face of the neo-liberal ideology that seems to have gripped even thinking about higher education, both their presence and the urgency to call these disciplines into question seem to have gone off stage. It is in this scenario that design has made its entrance, both in the marketplace and in academia. There is an obvious sense in which its entry is part of the neo-liberal ideology (it’s the new MBA—think of IDEOS setting up its branch in Mumbai) sweeping the globe. The consequence of the alliance of design-thinking and commerce in producing acceptance of new kind of products needs to be thought through. But design as an academic field—what it is, how it is taught, what it offers—raises questions that actually impinge on the attempt to reintorrogate the humanities and social sciences . One of the central issues for the former has been to articulate its role in the conceptualization of praxis. Now design as a mode of acting in the world cannot simply draw on whatever information is ready at hand. So we are confronted with the task of radically reimagining the ground to which both design and the humanities/social sciences nexus have to address themselves.