Interdisciplinarity: walking a fine line or walking on the wild side?

By Christelle Klein-Scholz, post-doctoral fellow, LERMA (E.A 853)
Aix-Marseille University

Area studies are intrinsically interdisciplinary: ‘[c]ultures, in their ever-shifting interactions and complexities, need to be both researched and taught from interdisciplinary perspectives’.[1] Characterized by hybridity, breadth, general knowledge and synthesis, they aim at ‘interconnect[ing] and transgress[ing] boundaries’[2] so as to implement a synergistic approach to ‘the growing number of problems “without a discipline”’.[3] ‘Commitment’ can be thought of as one such problem, and the 2015 LERMAsteriales were undoubtedly ‘at the boundary of the individual disciplines’ – literature, history, enunciation, linguistics, translation, photography, art, religion, politics, and language – ‘where they begin to merge and intermingle, clash and jar.’[4]

The concern that comes to mind when dealing with interdisciplinary studies is addressed on the website of the Arts and Science programmes at University College London: ‘If I take an interdisciplinary approach, won’t I just learn a little bit about everything and not much about anything?’; the answer that is provided aims at being both upfront about the issue at hand and reassuring to prospective students: Read more!