Designerly ways with the future of legal gender?

In a presentation for the final symposium of the Future of Legal Gender (FLaG) project, held on 09.03.22, I drew on my work at the intersections of law and design to ask:

How might designerly ways be used to enhance the long-term objectives and impacts of prefigurative/anticipatory law reform projects such as FLaG?

FLaG is a ‘critical law reform’ project which emphasises the tool of prefiguration–that is, acting ‘as if’ a future, in this case a particular law reform option, were already ‘on the table’. It aims, among other things, to ‘critically explore different ways of reforming legal gender status’, to ‘contribute to ongoing policy and political discussions … while taking a longer-term approach’ and to ‘understand different people’s hopes and worries …’ (My emphasis). One of its outputs is a ‘guide’ to the kinds of ‘principles and choices raised’ by a ‘future speculative’ reform which is intended to stimulate debate about ‘how it might work as a progressive legal measure’, as part of a ‘slow’ reform process.

In my presentation, I argued that the FLaG project is amenable to designerly ways because it is practical-critical-imaginative and experimental in orientation; concerned with pasts, presents and futures; and addresses a problem situation that is open, complex, networked and dynamic, as well as (therefore?) contested.

I drew on three fields of practices to share insights into what design might do for such prefigurative or anticipatory law reform projects: the use of mapping in two projects led/associated with CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe aimed at testing/promoting the deployment of the concept of ‘hate crime’ to address targeted violence in Europe and India; the use by Socratis Stratis and others of prefigurative design to support island-wide urban planning in Cyprus; and the use by Stuart Candy of an Experiential Ethnographic Futures methodology to instantiate futures in the form of artefacts as part of the United Nations Development Programme’s Instanbul Innovation Days 2021.

Note: this presentation includes a few words about the current status of Famagusta that are not quite clear/accurate. For clarification see here.

Thanks to SLSA, SLS and Leverhulme Trust for funding; and to Joanna Perry, Mohsin Alam Bhat and Melissa Sonnino for allowing me to share our collaborative work.


Facing Facts project

Hands-on Famagusta project

Stuart Candy The Sceptical Futuryst: A blog about how we might feel tomorrow

Perry-Kessaris (2021) Doing sociolegal research in design mode Routledge.

Perry-Kessaris (2021) ‘Could alternative econo-legal futures be made more possible and probable through prefigurative design? Insights from and for Cyprus’ 72:4 NILQ 623

Perry-Kessaris and Perry (2020) ‘Enhancing participatory strategies with designerly ways for sociolegal impact: Lessons from research aimed at making hate crime visible in Europe’ 29:6 SLS 835

Socrates Stratis (2016) ‘Visual Matrix for De-constructed Enclaves’, in Socrates Stratis (ed), Guide to Common Urban Imaginaries in Contested Spaces. Jovis.

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