Adrian Ivakhiv has some thoughts on “The joy (& loneliness) of being interdisciplinarian“.
I am someone who did a first degree in Politics and Modern history – though taught from a single department of Government – with a PhD from that same department in what can best be described as political theory, and who then taught in a Politics and International Studies department for three years. I think I can therefore claim to be what North Americans tend to call a ‘political scientist’, although the ‘scientist’ part isn’t something I’m comfortable with. For a while I engaged more with philosophers and philosophy than anything else. I then moved to Geography. I have no qualifications in Geography – not even a GCSE. I’ve published in most of the key Geography journals. I edit a journal that Geographers see as one of their own, though it has always claimed to be an interdisciplinary journal, and I’ve continued to try to make it so. So can I claim to be a Geographer? If so – and while I’ve usually denied it myself, some eminent Geographers have insisted that I am – when did I become one? The day I was hired by Durham? At some point since?
If I had to take a label at all, I usually say that I do the history of ideas. I’ve done it in Politics departments; I now do it in a Geography department. It allows me – I think – to write on very contemporary issues such as the ‘war on terror’ in a way that is informed by transformations among concepts, or to work on Beowulf or Antigone. I see no reason why I shouldn’t work on Leibniz and Lebanon; Heidegger and hermaphrodites; Coriolanus and contingent sovereignty. Is this interdisciplinary? Transdisciplinary? Undisciplined? One of the good things about the position I’m in – and I fully recognise this is not the case for many people – is that I no longer need to care.