Ill Disciplined (Bodies of Thought)
Interdisciplinary studies have long provided fertile ground for solving old problems, framing new ideas, and even generating new disciplines. Yet there can be no doubting the persistence of old disciplinary boundaries, or the tendency of these bold new interdisciplinary approaches to metastasize into conventional disciplinary formations. This paper will begin with a personal story – a scenario that I am sure is familiar to most academics – of an encounter with a colleague who felt that my attempted interdisciplinarity in a conference paper was in fact an outrageous abuse of material more proper to his discipline than to mine. What I will then seek to do is explain this persistence of disciplinary boundaries and proprietary protocols using, as seems to me to be appropriate for this purpose, a blend of phenomenological and psychoanalytic theory. I will argue that the stakes in disciplinary turf wars may be more than academic reputations or even the prospect of retaining a job. At stake in protecting a body of thought may well be the academic body itself, understood within a context of the mind-body integrity of the thinker as a being capable of existing within the world. To think, I suggest, is to be bounded, so thought of a world without boundaries is to imagine a world without a body of thought.
Keywords: Discipline Formations, Interdisciplinarity, Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis, Mind-Body Problem
Dr. Laurie Johnson
Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies, School of Humanities and Communication