Situative Interdisciplinarity: Empirical Reflections on Ten Years of Cross-Disciplinary Research

Rachel Reckinger, Christian Wille


Given the current call for interdisciplinarity, we reflect on pragmatic methodological implementations of collaborative research – by drawing on empirical evidence from two large-scale cross-disciplinary research projects and by theoretically framing them in trilingual contexts (German, French, and English). These are two major innovations compared to the existing body of literature in this domain. Our empirical analysis shows that multi-, inter- or trans-disciplinary collaboration is an oscillating process along a spectrum of cross-disciplinarity – spanning additive, converging and synthesizing work patterns, i.e. multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinarity. Such an umbrella-term avoids the common amalgamation of ‘interdisciplinarity’ as the overarching category (cross-disciplinarity of whatever form) and one of the relevant subcategories (the specific work form that a research team chooses). Concretely, if the majority of methods are developed through communal negotiation processes, then a truly interdisciplinary analysis of research results can only be guaranteed through recursive self-reflexive loops. Initial research questions may still be additive and interactions can oscillate during the project process between addition und tentative convergence. We label this process situative interdisciplinarity. Multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity are thus subsumed as a processual entity: flexible, possibly hybrid subforms of cross-disciplinarity. It needs constant reactivation, framing, timing and mediation by project managers. The major challenge lies in the collaborative transfer of concepts, theories, methods and research subjects. This transfer requires translation, explication and transposition of the various disciplinary ‘languages’ and can only be converged in an open-minded, team-oriented and reflexive work environment.

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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