What is the Interdisciplinary?

‘Interdisciplinary’: it is one of those rare words in the English language to have seven syllables and a capacity for tripping up speech in the midst of a quickly spoken sentence. Do we have a strange kind of mimesis here, so that the very sound and sequence of the syllables anticipate the complexity of the concept they formulate? What is it that we do, at ISI, and what is it about the word 'interdisciplinary' that seems to define us—yet in some ways seems so indefinable?

This spring we inaugurate a new Forum section on the ISI website for blogs, musings, and thought pieces of all kinds. Read on for ISI Director Stephen Clingman's​ take on the meaning of engaging in interdisciplinary work.

 

Faculty Seminar 2015-16: Call for Applications

The ISI has chosen the theme "Secrecy, Publicity, Privacy, Security" for its 2015-16 faculty seminar. In taking on these terms, the ISI is drawn to a quadrant of concerns that may be read in various combinations and various ways. In this, we are of course engaged with the present, from issues of surveillance and the dark rooms of power, to practices of unmasking its operations. But we are also interested in these questions across various times, places, disciplines, creative practices, and approaches. Secrecy, publicity, privacy and security are key concepts that apply in a wide range of environments, making their discussion especially well suited for an interdisciplinary investigation.

We encourage applications by faculty across campus, no matter their discipline. As many former ISI fellows will attest, the ISI experience is at once integrative, creative, scholarly, collegial, and lively. All our selected fellows will receive a $1500 research allowance. For a full description of the theme and guidelines on how to apply, please continue below. Applications are due at isi@umass.edu by Monday, March 2, 2015.

Tanisha Ford Awarded Best Article Prize

Former ISI fellow Tanisha Ford was awarded the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for the best article on southern women's history from the Souther Association for Women Historians. Ford was recognized at the organization's annual meeting in Atlanta, on November 13-16. Her award-winning article, "SNCC Women: Denim and the Politics of Dress," was published in the Journal of Southern History in August 2013. An announcement of Ford's award can be found here from the Women in Academia Report's website. 

Banu Subramaniam Publishes Ghost Stories for Darwin

ISI board member Banu Subramaniam published Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity with the University of Illinois Press in October. The book brings together her work on flower color variation in morning glories and the feminist studies of sciences. The interdisciplinary book bridges the social history of plants, women's studies, evolutionary and invasive biology, and the history of ecology. Donna J. Haraway comments that Subramaniam's book "destabilizes the old exchange rates and proposes instead a wealth of narratives and experimental conceptual and laboratory practices for doing evolutionary biology, ecology, and women's studies together." The book can be found here

ISI Fellow Angela de Oliveira Receives NSF-funded Fellowship

Current ISI Value Fellow Angela de Oliveira was selected as a Fellow for the Nation Science Foundation-funded "Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Fellowship Program." According to de Oliveira, she discussed her ISI project in her application for the fellowship.

The program "foster[s] the development of hazards scholars who will expand and strengthen the interdisciplinary research community." The fellowship begins with a weekend meeting in February, where fellows will be introduced to interdisciplinary practices in the study of hazards and disasters, begin to formulate their goals for the program, and meet with mentors and fellows. The Annual Natural Hazards and Applications Workshop will be held in July at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The program selects up to 20 fellows each year for the competitive program. More information about the program can be found on the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers website.

ISI Cosponsors Conflict Transformation and Literature Series

ISI is a proud cosponsor of The Art of Conflict Transformation Event Series, whose two-day event "Conflict Transformation and Literature: Exploring Transformations of Conflict Across Boundaries of Language, Nation states, Time and Memory" will take place from November 12-13. The event is organized by former ISHA/ISI fellow Leah Wing, and features Dr. Marjorie Agosin in three different engagements.

The first, on Wednesday November 12 at 12:30 pm in Herter 601, is an interdisciplinary graduate student conversation titled "The Aesthetics of Social Justice Activism through Literature." The second is a reading and conversation titled "Weaving the Memories of OThers" in the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at November 12 at 4:30 pm. Dr. Agosin's UMass visit will conclude with "Human Rights and the Arts," a student conversation on November 13 in the Honors College, Elm 230, at 10:00 a.m.

Albie Sachs Delivers Remarkable Talk To Standing-Room Only Crowd

On September 10, Justice Albie Sachs delivered a remarkable talk to a standing-room only crowd in the new Integrative Learning Center building. Drawing from his life experiences of involvement in South Africa's ANC during the struggle against Apartheid, his exile in Mozambique, and his later appointment by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court, Sachs kept the audience rapt with his storytelling as well as his dry wit.

The talk, titled 'The Value of Values: Lessons from the South African Transformation,' was directed at value and values which are at the heart of ISI's theme for the year. Sachs touched on issues that ranged from same-sex marriage and sexual equality, the death penalty, and revenge and vengeance.

During his visit to UMass and in addition to his talk, Sachs met with the current ISI fellows, conducted an interdisciplinary mixed graduate and undergraduate seminar. More photos from his visit can be found on our gallery

ISI Cosponsors Radha Radhakrishnan Talk

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute is delighted to co-sponsor a presentation by our former UMass colleague, 'Radha' Radhakrishnan, who will talk on the topic of 'What Is Wrong With Humanism?', at 5 pm, Bartlett 316, on September 18th. Radhakrishnan is Chancellor's Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the University of California, Irvine.
 
His talk will draw on Said, Fanon, and Heidegger in thinking through the problematics of humanism and the avenues of relation open to us. As he writes, "I will be attempting to open up a critical theoretical space where the exilic mode can be cultivated as a double critique both of nationalism and of humanism and its deep inherence in the metaphysics of anthropocentrism." The talk is free and open to the public.

Value

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute has chosen the theme "Value" for its 2014-15 faculty seminar. "Value" is one of our keywords, easy to say and to claim, though almost impossible to pin down in its complexity and range all the way from the most material to the most ethereal. Yet, has there ever been a society where questions of value have not been front and center, both foundation and purpose, assumption and teleology, a matter for dispute, conviction and doubt? As a term that has been construed in so many different forms in so many different contexts, it is an ideal topic for interdisciplinary investigation. Read on for a list of this year's fellows.