Pour un écotourisme universitaire ? À la recherche de pratiques pertinentes de l’interdisciplinarité.  

Posted: July 10, 2019 in Uncategorized


Pour un écotourisme universitaire ? À la recherche de pratiques pertinentes de l’interdisciplinarité.


Diane Leblond & Adam Wilson



Although we work in entirely different fields, and followed different paths to our current lab, we share a resolutely interdisciplinary approach to our research. In asking ourselves separately how interdisciplinarity was relevant to our endeavours, we thought we would simply come upon the same answers which have been sustaining our work these past years. Therefore rather than go through this familiar exercise each on our own terms, we challenged ourselves to reflect on interdisciplinarity as a team, bringing together our different perspectives on the matter. The resulting contribution is meant to respond to and build on Enjeux et positionnements de l’interdisciplinarité (2014), by attempting to understand some of the mechanisms at work in academic apprehensions of interdisciplinarity and the way it is practiced. In holding this conversation across disciplines, we hope to look beyond our own attachment to interdisciplinarity, and gain a wider perspective on the role it might play and the shapes it might take, especially within anglophone studies.

As different as our experiences with interdisciplinarity have been, their comparison suggests that a common feature of interdisciplinary approaches lies in their conflicted status. In the current academic climate, the practice of crossing disciplinary borders seems to elicit enthusiasm and wariness in equal measure. This is reflected by institutional structures, which reinforce disciplinary divisions whilst simultaneously promoting a cross-border mentality. But nowhere does the problematic status of interdisciplinarity appear more clearly than in the ambivalence with which it is sometimes met by academic communities. As we experience first hand, venturing across disciplinary borders and using languages that were not originally our own raises issues of intellectual legitimacy, integrity, and identity – both for ourselves and in our relations to our colleagues. Scholarly debates reflect such complex feelings – at best, as Diane found in her readings on visual culture, interdisciplinarians might be represented as uncouth trespassers; at worst, they might be simply labelled as intellectual quacks.

To address this ambivalence, and seize it as an opportunity to assess our own practices critically, we draw our own portrait of an interdisciplinary researcher. Building on a central topic of Adam’s work, we propose to use the metaphor of tourism to explore differing perceptions of interdisciplinarity, but also to shed light on our own approaches, and to uncover possible “good practices” in interdisciplinary border-crossing. We explore the hermeneutic relevance of the tourist as an ambivalent, Janus-like figure, whose ubiquitous and potentially destructive presence appears as inevitable in our globalised, modern world as interdisciplinarity seems to have become in the contemporary academic landscape. Connecting as it does issues of territory and language – from the crossing of borders and wandering into new territory, to the necessary adjustements that we make (or neglect to make) in encountering another idiom – the touristic paradigm allows us to explore concepts of commodification, authenticity and commitment that also sit at the heart of reflections on interdisciplinarity. Working from these intersecting issues, we propose the dynamic of collaboration, which crucially informs recent developments in eco- or sustainable tourism, as a useful starting point for fostering good practices in interdisciplinary research.








Armand, Claudine, Vanessa Boullet and David Ten Eyck, Enjeux et positionnements de       l’interdisciplinarité / Positioning Interdisciplinarity, Presses Universitaires de Nancy (Université de Lorraine Editions), 2014.

Bauman, Zygmunt. Postmodernity and its discontents, New York University Press,        1997.

Crow, Tom. ‘Visual Culture Questionnaire,’ October 77 (Summer): 34.

Culler, Jonathan. ‘The Semiotics of Tourism,’ in Framing the Sign: Criticism and its    Institutions, University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

Elkins, James. The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing, Mariner Books, 1997.

Foucault, Michel. Les Mots et les choses, 1966, Gallimard, 1990.

Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison, 1975, Gallimard, 1993.

Il faut défendre la société, Cours au Collège de France, 1975-1976, Seuil, 1997.

Gilman, Ernest. ‘Interart Studies and the “Imperialism” of Language,’ Poetics Today, vol.       10, no. 1, Art and Literature I, Spring, 1989, 5-30.

MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, University of California             Press, 1976.

Mitchell, W.J.T. ‘Showing Seeing: A Critique of Visual Culture,’ in The Visual Culture          Reader, N. Mirzoeff, ed., Routledge, 2002, 86-101.

—‘There are no Visual Media,’ Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 4, no. 2, 2005, 257-66.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. The Right to Look: A Counter-History of Visuality, Duke University           Press, 2011.



Comments are closed.