18.669 disciplines are an illusion?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 07:50:34 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 669.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 07:48:03 +0100
         From: Ryan Deschamps <Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca>
         Subject: Disciplines are an illusion?

As a soon graduating student, my understanding of the world is still through
directive inquiry, so my familiarity of the literature on interdisciplinarity
is somewhat weak (ie. I have to write case studies on General Electric, when
I'd much rather be reading about the philosophy of social science, or indeed of
the world of language arts).

It seems to me that the library world, beginning with the likes of Dewey, has
provided us with the "gift" of an objectified understanding of "discipline."
It is generally assumed that subjects like "medicine" or "art" are things that
exists outside the human beings who practice or study such subjects. However,
is there any body of literature that explores the notion of "discipline" from
the concept of "disciple?" It seems to me that anthropologists/humanists might
_begin_ with from the premise that "medicine" is the _culture_ of rather than
the _matter_ or _subject_ of inquiry. I mean that a discipline consists of a
body of (living and dead) disciples, rather than an objective body of
"knowledge." And becoming a practitioner of a discipline occurs from a love
and desire to emulate pre-established or historical disciples (masters like
Schweitzer, Pasteur for instance?) rather than a love of the knowledge itself.

Then, an "interdiscipline" should be a form of cross-cultural communication
rather than the use of one subject area by someone who studies another subject
area. The groupings of books categorized into LC subject headings could also
be seen as the artifacts of societies, including the basic assumptions,
language and values of the practitioners. These cultures develop in
"communities of practice" that accumulate largely within and among
universities, although sometimes extend to other areas of society (business,
government, volunteer-sector).

These ideas may be a bit trite, but they address the problem of the so-called
language-arts "interdisciplinarian" thinking he/she is being interdisciplinary
simply because he/she uses supply and demand, mathematical theory or an
understanding of the biosphere in his/her work. A true "interdisciplinarian"
ought to be a kind of anthropologist, understanding his/her own assumptions and
constructing the ethnography of the cross discipline before engaging in any
kind of synthesis of the material.

Ryan. . .

Ryan Deschamps
MLIS/MPA Expected 2005
Received on Mon Mar 28 2005 - 02:14:17 EST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Mar 28 2005 - 02:14:18 EST