Diversity, Globalization, and 'Growing up Digital': Navigating Interdisciplinarity in the Twenty-First Century


  • Jill Vickers Carleton University


Three main challenges face interdisciplinary practitioners in the humanities, social sciences, and professional education: (1) the difficulties and opportunities posed by diversity, (2) the challenges posed by globalization, and (3) the challenges posed by an environment shaped by information technology and the impact of new generations who "grew up digital." The theoretical literature on interdisciplinarity has focused largely on defining interdisciplinarity or establishing its acceptability as a mode of academic knowledge production. I argue that we can better understand the challenges interdisciplinary practitioners face by analysing specific interdisciplinary projects rather than by focusing on interdisciplinarity as a generic whole. I see interdisciplinarity as an integral part of the knowledge-production system: a normal part of the processes of fragmentation, synthesis, and recombination of knowledge (Salter & Hearn, 1996). Consequently, generational and environmental changes are part of these normal processes and must be understood as such. By exploring ethnic studies and women's studies in North America, I attempt to illuminate the historicity of interdisciplinary projects and how they change over time. This in turn demonstrates our need for criteria to assess the success of interdisciplinary projects that go beyond institutionalization, which, to date, has been too often the only criterion of success.

Author Biography

Jill Vickers, Carleton University

Jill Vickers jvickers@ccs.carleton.ca is Professor of Political Science at Carleton University, where she has also taught Canadian Studies and Women's Studies. She has written widely on feminist political science, epistemology, interdisciplinary methodology, feminist theory, and movements for change. She has also authored textbooks and instructional television programs and been active in policy formation. She served as Director of the Institute of Canadian Studies at Carleton and as President of CAUT and of the Canadian Research Institute on the Status of Women. She is especially interested in interdisciplinarity and has published a number of articles on the subject.