Levi Bryant on Post-Disciplinarity
by Adam Robbert
[Excuse the previous grammatical errors in this post. I am experimenting with the WordPress App on my phone -- it is proving difficult to use!]
Some fine reflections on pedagogy, the structure of knowledge circulation, and post-disciplinary practices from Bryant in THIS recent post. Bryant defines post-disciplinarity thusly:
And so it goes. Kris, Eileen and I are involved in trying to create something called post-disciplinarity where it is recognized that all of these disciplines are local knowledges, partial views on the world, where it is recognized that the artist, engineer, designer, and activist create knowledge and thought every bit as much as the scholar, and where a space can be opened where these divergent lenses can come to resonate with one another and generate new innovation in thought, art, design, and political engagement.
This is very close to what integral ecologists mean by the same term (for the integral ecologist, each discipline produces true, but only partial perspectives). Further, for the integral ecologist, disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary practices form the constitutive elements of what is called a post-disciplinary perspective. Disciplinary approaches are the most familiar, dealing with specialized knowledge and training from within the academy. Inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary approaches vary in definition depending on who you ask.
I tend to think of interdisciplinary practices as the migration of one set of methods or insight from one discipline into another (e.g., when philosophers use the methods and insights from the complexity sciences to create novel philosophical propositions).
Multidisciplinary approaches I take to mean the collaborative efforts of specialists from a variety of fields working together to solve particularly complex problems (e.g., when physicists, chemists, and biologists work together to understand the links between organisms and their environments).
Transdisciplinary research refers to the move away from both inter- and multidisciplinary practices in order to create a “metaparadigmatic” practice of research and knowledge making. Here researchers have included in their research agenda a reflexivity that continually calls into question the paradigms which construct and enact their research programs.
Postdisciplinary, then, refers to the ability to move in between inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary modes of research, as governed by the needs of the research project.
I think Bruno Latour is perhaps the strongest example of a postdisciplinary researcher I can think of, allowing the infrastructure of the actors in play to generate a unique research paradigm appropriate to the situation (Roy Bhaskar would surely be an excellent example as well, though he, I think with good reason, is hesitant to use the term “postdisciplinary” and instead prefers “cross-disciplinary”).
My own thesis work centered on creating a three-fold system of 1) a natural ecology, 2) a media ecology, and 3) a knowledge ecology. These three, interpenetrating ecologies roughly correspond to the physical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, respectively. Its my fledgling attempt at producing a postdisciplinary approach to ecology.