Humanities and Interdisciplinarity: Methods and Challenges

By Stéphanie Smadja.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 9, 2015 $US5.00

The word “interdisciplinarity” has become increasingly popular. In France, it seems more and more encouraged in recent calls for funding, as well as in new inter-university groups involved in the “Horizon 2020” call for projects, in which the Humanities occupy a central position. Humanities are more and more called to be part of interdisciplinary projects which include other fields (exact sciences and medicine). However, today’s significant disciplinary structure is not in favor of interdisciplinary work. Indeed, in order to obtain a researching-professor position, one must not only defend a Ph.D Thesis (in order to become a Senior Lecturer) or a habilitation thesis to supervise research (to become a Professor), but must also be licensed by the National Universities Council. However, different departments as well as job profiles are disciplinary based (and even more so in literature which is generally categorized by centuries). Interdisciplinarity can therefore not be taken for granted. Beyond the institutional questioning, interdisciplinary work generates specific methodological and epistemological challenges with both scientific and pedagogical implications. On what terms can a genuine dialogue and exchanges between disciplines take place? What tools favor such research? Within the field of Humanities, interdisciplinary work represents an ambitious goal. Beyond declarations of goodwill, experimenting, and refining interdisciplinary work requires practical structures to be put in place according to the research practices of the disciplines at stake. Clustering comprehensive resources is a key condition which is not facilitated by the traditional way of distributing university library collections. At Paris-Diderot in 2013, we created the Jacques Seebacher Resource Center based on an interdisciplinary library (literature, history, philosophy, art history) and focused on a broadly defined XIXth century (from the end of the XVIIIth to the beginning of World War One). Its function is to build an interdisciplinary structured library collection (print and digital). The elaboration of a XIXth century research object collection and digital corpus will be one of its priorities in order to favor the creation of interdisciplinary scientific and pedagogical projects. First, I will introduce to you the Jacques Seebacher Resource Center. I will then develop an example of an interdisciplinary project put in place in 2014 for which all collaboration would be welcome.

Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, Library, Resource Center, Collaboration, Paris, Nineteenth Century, Humanities

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 13, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.27-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 9, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 327.090KB)).

Stéphanie Smadja

Associate Director, Department of Lettres, Art, Cinéma, Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7, Paris, France