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“The Case for Self-Education – The Self-Help Manuals of the Communication Centre of Scientific Knowledge for Self-Reliance”, in: ABE – Architecture Beyond Europe, No. 21, 2023.

Frederike Lausch

This paper addresses self-help manuals presenting planning, building and survival knowledge in the form of comic strips. They were designed by the Communication Centre of Scientific Knowledge for Self-Reliance (CCSK) and distributed globally, with a particular focus on India. The CCSK, founded in 1982-83 by architects Yona Friedman and Eda Schaur and funded by the United Nations University (UNU), imagined a multidirectional exchange of different forms of expertise, taking the knowledge and agency of non-professionals into account and aiming to question conventional concepts of the expert. This paper asks how different forms of expertise were acknowledged, constructed, and challenged in the CCSK manuals. It situates Schaur and Friedman’s work within the discourse on self-help in general and on “appropriate technology” and the role of communication media and visualization techniques in development aid in particular. Although the knowledge transfer from “developing countries” to industrialized ones remained largely imaginary, the CCSK contributed to establishing development as a global and mutual learning process, a concept especially advocated by the UNU.