The Institute for the study of English-, German-, and Romance language-speaking cultures (IMAGER – Université Paris-Est, France)is organizing an international conference on the epistemological, institutional, and curricular implications of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.
The domination of disciplines in academic programmes and institutions is increasingly being called into question. While disciplines help delineate areas of knowledge and provide an institutional framework to both academic instructors and scholars, the hallowing of academic silos can lead to a form on entrenchment.
Not only does scholarship conducted from the standpoint of a single discipline tend to offer a limited point of view on culture, it also makes certain forms of expertise the exclusive preserve of a given disciplinary field. At the same time, the identity of academic disciplines has increasingly become subject to question. For example, “literary studies” are going through an identity crisis that raises the question of their position and legitimacy within the field of social sciences and humanities.
Considering the rise of cultural studies, literary studies are currently opening themselves up to the epistemological renewal that other fields can offer. They increasingly borrow theoretical tools from other disciplines in order to analyze the historical, socio-political and institutional conditions of production of literary texts, to identify the general discursive circumstances in which they emerge, and to study the relationship between literature and other media. Similarly, while disciplines such as sociology, history, and political science have always been closely related—if not literally spinoffs from one another, as in the case of sociology vis-à-vis anthropology—what becomes of their specificities when they borrow from geography to address space-related issues, from psychology to understand social actors’ individual motivations, or from literary studies to make sense of individual or collective narratives?
Disciplines are highly disputed turfs, so that interdisciplinary dialogue can be both a necessity and a source of tensions and conflicts—witness collaborative work on common projects. But this dialogue does also foster the development of conceptual frameworks and methods that may turn differences and divergences into a more fruitful reflection on the production and evolution of knowledge. –Whereas multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity have long been integral to the methodologies of the social sciences and humanities, transdisciplinarity emerged in the 1990s as a way of crossing disciplinary boundaries and is today understood as a form of systematic exchanges among the disciplines. Due attention should be given to the causes of this transition and to its possible impact on academic institutions.
This conference organized by the Institute for the study of English-, German-, and Romance language-speaking cultures (IMAGER – Université Paris Est, France) aims to assess current theoretical reflections on inter- and transdisciplinarity as well as research grounded in it, and to measure their impact on the evolution of scholarship and curriculum in the field of literature and humanities. Transdisciplinarity will thus be approached both as an epistemological issue and a research method.
The first goal of this conference is to put these issues into perspective by addressing the genealogy of disciplinary systems both within and outside Europe. Close attention should be given to the conditions—be they subjective, social, national—which shape the emergence of disciplines in social sciences and humanities as well as to the various agendas that may underlie their institutionalization. Why has the critique of prevailing cultural models in some cases led to the substitution of “studies” instead of “disciplines”? How are the demands of specialization to be reconciled with what might be construed as a global, utopian view of culture?
Further, the conference aims to account for experiments in research that oversteps disciplinary boundaries by analyzing the new fields and methodologies that emerge in the contemporary globalized academic environment, which puts a strong premium on synergism and linkages. These include for instance: the development of intermedial studies and of a transnational literary and artistic history that echoes Global History; the study of “cultural patterns” (Kulturmuster) that account for a given society’s dominant modes of thinking; the collaborations among various social science disciplines around issues of collective identity constructions; the interaction between social and “hard” sciences in environmental studies. Particular attention must also be paid to the emergence of altogether new methodologies such as in the numerical humanities.
The third focus of the conference is the consequences of a transdisciplinary approach in the relationship between academic research and curriculum. To what extent does the development of transdisciplinarity require rethinking the academic training of both students—be it in primary, secondary, or higher education—and teachers? Are academic disciplines a purely constraining framework that needs to be transcended, or are they also safeguards against intellectual fuzziness and methodological confusion? The institutional assessment of education and research is also affected by transdisciplinary practices: how are academic skills and results to be assessed in the absence of a reference to clearly bounded disciplines? What, on the contrary, may be the benefits of such a renewed approach to evaluation?
The conference will thus revolve around three sets of issues:
- theory and historical perspective
- current research with a transdisciplinary angle
- curricular, institutional, and educational challenges
Papers— in French or English —may examine the following questions (indicative list):
- The transition from academic “disciplines” to “studies,” and from interdisciplinarity to transdisciplinarity; the link between transdisciplinarity and transculturality
- How to define transdisciplinarity: in what ways does it differ from interdisciplinarity?
- How do new fields of transdisciplinary study get created, and what methodological issues do they raise—e.g. the constitution of transgeneric corpora?
- The philosophical and epistemological issues of transdisciplinarity: Is the decompartmentalization of knowledge a utopia? Can scholarship really situate itself beyond academic disciplines?
- The ethical and social implications of transdisciplinarity
- The role of the Internet and of ICTs in the emergence and development of transdisciplinary practices
- The practical implications of transdisciplinarity for education: What are the obstacles to, and the difficulties in, the implementation of transdisciplinary projects or curriculum? What are their benefits?
- How does transdisciplinarity affect those institutions that collaborate with universities—rating agencies, institutional review boards, libraries etc.?
Paper submissions—300 to 400 words, in French or English, and a short biographical notice—should be sent by January 31, 2014 to:
Laure de Nervaux-Gavoty
Sylvie Le Moël
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