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Logics of interdisciplinarity

Barry, Andrew, Born, Georgina and Weszkalnys, Gisa (2008) Logics of interdisciplinarity. Economy and Society, 37 (1). pp. 20-49. ISSN 1469-5766

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03085140701760841


This paper interrogates influential contemporary accounts of interdisciplinarity, in which it is portrayed as offering new ways of rendering science accountable to society and/or of forging closer relations between scientific research and innovation. The basis of the paper is an eighteen-month empirical study of three interdisciplinary fields that cross the boundaries between the natural sciences or engineering, on the one hand, and the social sciences or arts, on the other. The fields are: 1) environmental and climate change research, 2) ethnography in the IT industry and 3) art-science. In the first part of the paper, in contrast to existing accounts, we question the idea that interdisciplinarity should be understood in terms of the synthesis of two or more disciplines. We stress the forms of agonism and antagonism that often characterize relations between disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and distinguish between three modes of interdisciplinarity. In the second part we outline three distinctive logics or rationales that guide interdisciplinary research. In addition to the logics of accountability and innovation, we identify the logic of ontology, that is, an orientation apparent in diverse interdisciplinary practices in each of our three fields towards effecting ontological transformation in the objects and relations of research. While the three logics are interdependent, they are not reducible to each other and are differently entangled in each of the fields. We point to the potential for invention in such interdisciplinary practices and, against the equation of disciplinary research with autonomy, to the possibility of forms of interdisciplinary autonomy.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © The Authors
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2013 10:58
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 00:49

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