Eclectic Curiosity

Interdisciplinary Academia

Posted on May 10th, 2005, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

There’s a great post and string of comments over at Danah Boyd’s Apophenia blog: Identity Crisis: The curse/joy of being interdisciplinary and the future of academia. Boyd asks, “Why aren’t there scholars right now who make my jaw drop?” and weaves it into a discussion about Phd dissertations and job talks, concluding, “It will not be possible to label the next round of revolutionary scholars and they won’t be trapped up in conversations and defining disciplines or securing methods.”

I think that it’s hard to be interdisciplinary. I think everyone *wants* to be interdisciplinary but that seems to mean draw haphazardly from different disciplines, throw into the blender, add a few spices and voila interdisciplinary gazpacho. I want a chemical reaction dammit.

The problem with being interdisciplinary is it that means staying in a state of perpetual identity crisis. I think that this is fundamentally hard for academics. Many of us grew up as ostracized freaks and geeks and felt such glory in fitting in. There’s something desperately comforting about fitting it, about being amongst peers. Staying in-between, outside and perpetually bridging any dichotomous definitions is exhausting.

And some comment snippets:

The Western worldview is still heading pell-mell in the opposite direction, actively squashing all of the ambiguities, inconsistencies, and messily entangled processes where all of the great truth lies waiting to be noticed and played with. – Barb Dybwad

I don’t believe that identity crisis is the problem with being interdisciplinary – at least, it isn’t the main problem. The main problem is that that it’s so damn hard to be at home in several disciplines. You can only read so many papers in a day, and it takes a lot of work to keep current in just one field. – Dan

I share your feelings about interdisciplinarity – I feel like it’s the only worthy way of living/working/thinking – surely not yet for everybody but the aspirations of doing “things that matter” force one very strongly to be an interdisciplinary generalist or something. – Danila

(via Purse Lip Square Jaw)

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