Re: Request: Interdisciplinary

John Pastore (bwplacar@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Tue, 9 Jul 1996 17:48:31 -0700

Dorothy J. Cattle wrote:
> ANTHRO-Lers:


> I need to write a succinct and convincing *paragraph* in a formal
> letter regarding the nature and importance of being able to communicate
> and interact across disciplinary boundaries. The paragraph needs to
> convince other social scientists [incl. economists] that someone from X
> discipline can effectively understand and work with materials from other
> disciplines, almost no matter the research topic or approach taken.

It seems that any research topic, if it is going to be communicated at all, will have to
face the probability of its being communicated inter-culturaly.

Considering such, I would think that the recent importance attached to the study and
understanding of those 'cultural' idiosyncracies which correspond to the success of
diplomacies for cross-cultural economomics, for example, would make your audience not
only want to "effectively understand and work with materials from other disciplines,"
but, in face of the possibly avoidable cross-cultural challenges, do so with a
compulsion. After all, it should be within the common conventions, or criteria, of
disciplines where communication might best be able to transcend the greater obstacles
presented by cultural idiosyncracies.

... I
> would like to argue that anthro [as a discipline] is uniquely positioned to
> do so and whether "it" actually does is dependent on the
> individual anthropologist...therefore, ending with the attributes, abilities,
> and experience necessary to be interdisciplinary *and* an anthropologist.

With anthropology's expertise for trancending cross-cultural bounds, anthropology should
be uniquely positioned to help in trancending interdisciplinary bounds as well, but,
anthropology should not be dependent on any single anthropologist, and, consequently,
the ability of another discipline being dependent on the attributes of a single perosn,
rather than the discipline of anthropolgy as a whole. To think otherwise might be
missing just what anthropology has best to offer.

While in the course of developing a common convention, or language, for itself, so all
its members can both better express themselves within their discipline, and better
express their discipline for other disciplines, who but anthoplogists, and especially
its linguists, are in a better position to parallel their pursuit for anthroplogy with
the same for interdisciplinary communications?

... I
> want to avoid or void any notions about the esoteric and exotic and I
> don't particularly want to rehash the intro anthro characteristics a la
> holism, etc. I want to leave the impression of a forward-looking
> discipline, adept at what is coming next... [despite all the
> hand-wringing that's taken place on this list].

That I would think would be easy enough. If the question comes up why anthropology lacks
this common convention or language for itself, which has resulted in much deliberation
here, the answer would be anthropology's having to redefine its conventions, language,
and, thus, itself to remove itself from its 'colonialist-view' origin to its newly
developing global-view, much like interdisciplinary communications. So to be "foward
looking", if the question doesn't come up, bring it up.