Positioning Interdisciplinarity: Call for Papers

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‘Positioning Interdisciplinarity’

9-10 March 2012

Deadline for proposals: 6 January 2012

The research group I.D.E.A. (‘Théories et pratiques de l’interdisciplinarité dans les études anglophones’) is announcing a call for papers for its international conference ‘Positioning Interdisciplinarity’. This conference, which will be held at the Nancy campus of the Université de Lorraine from 9-10 March 2012, will be the occasion to reflect upon the position that interdisciplinary research theories and methods occupy in academic institutions today and to further discussion of the analytical tools that researchers use to position themselves between existing disciplines.

The conference will pay particular attention to the field of English Studies—a field that, by its history and objects of study, has been especially affected by debates about disciplinary divisions and their limitations. It also aims, however, to reach out to colleagues working in other academic departments whose research interests intersect with those of English Studies (language sciences, history, didactics, comparative literature, art history, etc.).

Today, interdisciplinary approaches are widely seen as desirable, even necessary, responses to the various imperatives (intellectual, ethical and institutional) that condition research and pedagogy within universities. This has given rise to a (sometimes contentious) debate over the positioning of interdisciplinary research within the academy. The working conditions of an increasing number of scholars are being transformed as the institutional context evolves and traditionally distinct disciplines merge within larger teaching or research units, be it by choice (out of a desire to exploit common scientific ground), for practical reasons (out of financial necessity or a desire to create more ‘competitive’ structures), or a combination of the two.

If one considers the case of English Studies in France, there still exists a tension between students’ and researchers’ openness to interdisciplinary lines of inquiry such as Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Eco-Criticism, Sociolinguistics, etc. and the academy’s continued reliance upon traditional divisions between literature, linguistics and civilisation that govern the nation’s competitive exams and influence its universities’ hiring decisions. (Indeed the name of the I.D.E.A. research group itself reflects this sort of tension, registering at once an interdisciplinary mission and a continuing attachment to the notion of ‘English Studies’.)

Together with this debate on the position of interdisciplinarity within academic institutions, the conference organisers encourage contributions that seek to further reflection on the analytical tools that researchers use to position themselves productively between existing disciplines. Conference papers that contribute to this theoretical discussion might, for example, discuss

  • the status of translation as an interdisciplinary practice, implying as it does passages between languages and the parallel study of two or more texts
  • the theoretical and analytical tools that make it possible to bring discussions of literary texts, visual arts and music into relation with one another, as well as into relation with other disciplines like sociology, philosophy and history. The purpose is to demonstrate how each art form and text can benefit from its interaction/confrontation with the other and can be analysed regarding the historical, sociological, ideological, and aesthetic context in which they are produced by writers/artists and received by the public
  • the inherently interdisciplinary nature of ‘civilisational studies’ and the consequent importance of ‘civilisation’ in the teaching of foreign languages in France, alongside the more traditional disciplines of literature and linguistics
  • the study of literary productions from the perspectives offered by other disciplines (such as through a consideration of the economic and legal frameworks that govern their distribution)
  • the necessity of interdisciplinary methods for the study of periods such as the Middle Ages, where political and linguistic boundaries were less significant and more porous than they are today, and where the disciplinary divisions that characterise the modern university had not yet come into being
  • Pedagogical applications of interdisciplinary theories and methods

Proposals of no more than 300 words, for 20-minute presentations, should be sent to David Ten Eyck and Vanessa Boullet (david.ten-eyck@univ-nancy2.fr, vanessa.boullet@univ-nancy2.fr) before 6 January 2012. Articles based on conference papers will be considered for a book-length publication in the Regards croisés sur le monde anglophone series, published by the Presses Universitaires de Nancy.