Call for Papers: UI&U Conference Day – Interdisciplinarity: Engaging Ambiguities

“Interdisciplinarity is not the calm of an easy security.”

–Roland Barthes, “From Work to Text” (1971)

Coined in the mid-1920s by the Social Science Research Council, the term ‘interdisciplinarity’ has become a fixture in contemporary academic parlance that, variously conceptualized, provides a broad umbrella for a growing number of cross-, multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary study centers, research institutes, problem-solving initiatives, and educational programs. According to some estimates, there are well over 800 interdisciplinary studies programs in existence at US universities and research centers today. Yet, despite the proliferation of interdisciplinary studies in the American academy and beyond, little consensus appears to have been reached about what interdisciplinarity is and does, leading some critics to assert that interdisciplinarity has become “so fuzzy that a university’s commitment to it is close to meaningless.” Many proponents of interdisciplinary studies, however, consider its very indeterminateness an asset, arguing that it allows researchers to focus on problems or issues that cannot be solved or even addressed within the existing disciplines.

As Geoffrey Bennington points out, ‘inter’ is a notoriously ambiguous prefix, which can mean forming a communication between and joining together—as in ‘international’ and ‘intercourse’—or separating, keeping apart—as in ‘interval’ and ‘interpose.’ This ambiguity is reflected in the slipperiness of the term ‘interdisciplinarity.’ As Joe Moran notes, it can suggest forging new connections across different disciplines. But it can also mean establishing a “third space” in the fissure and gaps that exist between disciplines. Or it might suggest a radical intervention in the discourses and practices of institutionalize knowledge-making that seeks to (re)connect the academe with the outside world.

Before the backdrop of these multiple–often overlapping, sometimes contradictory, sometimes complementary–approaches to interdisciplinarity a broad range of questions emerge that are central to our practices and scholarship within an interdisciplinary PhD program. In what ways does our work illuminate tensions, relationships, ambiguities within and between disciplines? How are we to examine problems and issues that cut across disciplinary fields? In what ways may our findings lead to an integration of existing disciplinary knowledges? How might our interdisciplinary inquiry draw upon the emerging fields of cybernetics, chaos theory, and complexity theory? Can our interdisciplinary work provide practical problem-solving strategies in response to external demands of society? How can we ensure that our interdisciplinary scholarship meets standards of academic rigor? What kind of languages, discourses, and representational techniques are appropriate for interdisciplinary scholarship? To what extent are we engaged in a critique of established ways of making, disseminating, and authorizing knowledge? In what ways does our work draw upon and advance current debates about creativity, difference, and social justice? What are the potential shortcomings and limitations of our interdisciplinary theories and practices?

For this installment of our conference series, we are inviting proposals for individual and panel presentation that explore these and other questions from a wide variety of perspectives. The following list of potential topics is suggestive rather than exclusive:

  • Artistic Interdisciplinarities
  • Disciplinary Cultures
  • Disciplinary Tensions and Relationships
  • Difference Within, Among, and Across Disciplines
  • Interdisciplinarity and the Creative Process
  • Interdisciplinarity and the Humanities
  • Interdisciplinarity and Social Justice
  • Interdisciplinarity and Social Power
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Public Policy
  • Interdisciplinary Education
  • Interdisciplinary Identities
  • Interdisciplinary Methodologies
  • Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving
  • Interdisciplinary Representations
  • Leadership Across, In-Between, and Beyond Disciplines
  • Leadership Studies and Interdisciplinary Inquiry
  • The Politics of Interdisciplinarity
  • Public Policy and Interdisciplinarity
  • Theories of Interdisciplinarity


Please join us!




In addition to conference presentations that follow traditional models, we encourage individual and group submissions that showcase creative work and/or utilize alternative approaches such as poster sessions, storytelling sessions, dramatic tellings, and roundtables. Please forward all proposals via email, c/o “Review and Organization Committee,” to The deadline for proposal submissions is May 1, 2011. Please include the following information:

  • Name
  • Institutional and/or program affiliation(s)
  • Mailing address (including zip code)
  • Phone number(s)
  • E-mail address
  • Title of the proposed presentation
  • Abstract of 200-500 words
  • AV equipment needs, if any
  • Special needs, if any


Panel or roundtable organizers should include the above information for each participant.


The conference will be held at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Hotel at the University of Cincinnati. In order to receive the discounted rate of $89/night plus tax, please mention the Union Institute & University when making reservations.


Kingsgate Marriott Conference Hotel

151 Goodman Drive

Cincinnati, Ohio 45219

1-513- 487-3800



Presenters will have to confirm their conference participation within one week of receiving the acceptance notice. There is no registration fee. However, non-Union presenters wishing to attend the keynote dinner must make advance reservations at the charge of $25.


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