Monday, December 1, 2008

Theories of Interdisciplinarity

Integrative Praxes: Learning from Multiple Knowledge Formations written by Richard Carp explores and expands upon William Newell’s, “A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies.” While Newell’s theory stays within the realms of disciplinarity, Carp travels beyond these historical and cultural restraints and uncovers the goal of all our studying.

Carp’s article divulges Newell’s beliefs that the disciplines are the foundations of interdisciplinarity (p. 78). In Newell’s words, “By definition, interdisciplinary study draws insights from relevant disciplines and integrates those insights into a more comprehensive understanding” (p. 83). Carp acknowledges Newell as an integral part of defining interdisciplinarity over the last thirty years, but fears that interdisciplinary study is losing more than it gains.

Carp talks of, “…creative insurgency—a desire to change the structures through which knowledge is generated and disseminated by confounding, resisting, transforming, and replacing existing institutional forms (perhaps in perpetuity)” (p. 85). Carp describes his understanding of interdisciplinary study as, “a search not only for new ‘knowledge’ but also of new ways to know and of new ‘things’ to be known, including new social relations that generate and validate knowledge, new spatial experience giving rise to new ‘knowing subjects,’ and new dimensions for knowledge (p. 85). The Integrative Praxes article wants to push past the constraints of disciplinary structures and open up dialogue to future foundations of knowledge systems.

What I have gathered from reading this article is that Western knowledge is based on a disciplinary knowledge formation that is only two centuries old. The disciplines formed, to keep our capitalist society moving smoothly for the people who created it. With the academy in place, it solidified people’s status and the cycle began. With this new knowledge system in place other forms of attaining knowledge fell to the wayside; with new technology comes new problems needing solutions.

Carp eventually begins to use the phrase, “integrative praxes” instead of interdisciplinarity. With interdisciplinary studies relying heavily on a disciplinary foundation, Carp prefers a vocabulary that encompasses a broader range of knowledge formations. These formations would come from other forms of learning such as, the knowledge of woman and mothers, the knowledge of apprenticeship, the knowledge from our bodies, and many more. When different types of knowledge come together, Carp says life happens.

The objective of Carp’s article is to clarify that the goal of the journey of knowledge formation is to live well (p. 71). Throughout his article, Carp describes and explains that knowledge comes from everything we do not just one institution or one experience. “The world we study is the world we live, and our studying of it is one component of our living in it. But the end and goal of all our studying is our life” (p.112).

Thus far in my life, my knowledge formations for the majority have come from inside the academy. I was taught from a young age that school was the way to do what you wanted in your life. No questions asked, until I went to college. The knowledge processes I cherish, and am most passionate about have come from other sources. I have learned so much from family and family history. Travel experiences and work experiences have taught me more than I could have learned from sitting in a blank classroom. I began learning about art on my own somehow, but wanted to take classes. My art degree is coming from a foundation of disciplinarity, but I do not believe that it had to happen in that way. Through my interdisciplinary studies, I have gained the knowledge and foundation to now see this. I have learned a great deal, I do not mean to discount it, but I feel strongly that there are other ways for me to learn and I know I will discover them. The academy is only one way to form knowledge processes and now, I am more confident in exploring other means of acquiring knowledge for myself in the future.

The overall goal of “living well” along with a lifetime of learning is a belief I share with Richard Carp. Reading his article, revitalized my thoughts and feelings about a lifetime of learning. The path I have taken for knowledge, I do not feel, could have been satiated in a disciplinary department. I feel this because, “living well” is what motivates my journey and takes me to unexpected places. Knowing that I am becoming more and more comfortable as a perpetual learner.

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