Scientists and other scholars in academic disciplines that have been the key producers of ideas, information, and technologies either close their eyes to the havoc, or are in a race of pointing to the imminent cataclysm and documenting the torrent. The technologies they produce and the policies they inspire are cures to the symptoms that either exacerbate the havoc by damming the destructive forces, or are food to strengthen the structures of destruction, and usually are diversions unto the less powerful. The philosophical commitments that the scholarship is based on is the same that has caused the current affliction and imminent debacle. Some of the current disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, or transdisciplinary scholarship that has managed to move beyond documenting, describing, explaining and predicting, tries to stop the devastating impact of humyns on themselves and the planet yet fails to face the complex and wicked reasons of the increasing devastation and imminent debacle, partly because they are locked into the same philosophical base that destruction operates on.
The concept - metadisciplinarity- and its meronyms - metadisciplinary scholarship and metadisciplinary activism - transforming learning into humyn action is proposed. I refrain from disciplining metadisciplinarity by not defining it. The state of non-definition enables the unimagined possibilities to become possibilities. Yet I will propose - for further modification- what cannot be considered metadisciplinarity, metadisciplinary scholarship and metadisciplinary activism and possibilities in imagining metadisciplinarity. The charting of the impossible should not be taken as simple dialectical negation, not only because I see no reason to be bound by a "is or is not logic," but more importantly because I do not want to set an endpoint and leave an open door to continued imagining.
A scholar can not imagine a new form of scholarship without any reference to the past or to the academic institutions that existed prior to the act of thinking. Therefore in locating this new form of scholarship we inherently have to face disciplinarity itself. This confrontation is visible in prefixing disciplinarity with meta-. The prefix positions the unimagined posibilities behind, besides, after, above, beyond, and transformed, everywhere in time, space and unimagined dimensions, but not only disciplinary. Metadisciplinarity is also not only disciplinary because it will not let itself be disciplined and operates in a dimension not accessible to disciplines because of disciplining. Metadisciplinary scholarship does not only assume that disciplines, as they operate, produce, and suppress are bound with concrete, fluid or nonexistent epistemological frames, yet it does not succumb to frames and categorization. Metadisciplinarity is not only interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary because it does not operate only among disciplines or incorporates only multiple disciplines, maybe it can operate in dimensions that look into the disciplines. Metadisciplinarity is not only transdisciplinary because it does not require a rootedness in any discipline nor does it require communication and positioning in other disciplines. Metadisciplinarity does not have to have a commitment to a body of literature or a set of nomenclature.
The purpose of metadisciplinarity is not to erase disciplinarity, its scholarship and activism. Disciplinarity will no doubt continue to exist, but should not be a straight jacket put by an academia in denial to scholars questioning the reasons of society in dementia. Can metadisciplinarity provide space for those scholars that would like to go beyond the structures, rules, conditions and ways of thinking and conceptualization set by academic disciplinary practice? Can metadisciplinary scholarship question political impositions and stay away from alliances, and can they strive for an ideal, and a set of principles that they do not have to sacrifice for institutional, political, and financial reasons?
Can metadisciplinary scholarship exist by synthesizing data and theory from many disciplines first and then producing its own in a manner that can not be categorized or put into any discipline, and not be derided by disciplinary convictions. And yet can it be that these epistemological products can remain as metadisciplinary knowledge without being appropriated by a discipline or transmutating yet into another discipline. Can the products carry the metadata of recognition and process, and not allowed to be fed into the structures of social dementia (2).
Can metadisciplinary scholarship use methodologies that have not yet been defined and articulated, and not be disregarded, but explored? And when scholars use traditional methods, developed and refined by disciplines, can they escape categorization once again? Can a scholar engage in the methodologies of a certain discipline and yet retain a metadisciplinary outlook? Can metadisciplinary scholarship yield to a prudence of knowledge and information production that by processing provides for intelligent cognitive models for humyns rather than unconnected and inflated models that further dementia? Here social dementia is visible as the disintegration of societal cognition into smaller and smaller knowledge systems (e.g. disciplines) that examined outside their context and relationship to other knowledge systems lead to a dangerous misrepresentations (3) of the Earth, our relationship to it and to fellow humyns.
For all these questions we can imagine the answer yes far less than no, but yet we still have the freedom of imagining, just before our imagination deteriorates with the ever engulfing dementia.
Acknowledgements: Premesh Lalu, Adam Sitze for their immense help in imagining metadisciplinarity.
1. The description of social dementia has been articulated in environmental and eco-feminist literature since the 1960's and is quite known to the social and ecological fieldworker in any urban and rural setting. The dementia is most readily diagnosed in the Feast World and its symptoms are very visible in the Tied World.
2. Scholarship and disciplines have been under the support, control, and exploitation of the very structures that are part of social dementia. Therefore, what is the possibility for the metadisciplinary intellectual agenda to exist and its products not be used to further the dementia? How can the monopoly and control of knowledge and information be abolished?
3. Emergent properties of systems are invisible in disciplinary work due to isolation of subject and objects of study (system concepts and components) from its larger social and biophysical context.
Edited 3/6/1999 and 3/8/1999
Last Edited 7/12/2015
Özesmi, U. 1999. Metadisciplinarity, Scholars, and Scholarship. Online Third Revised Edition 2015