Geography in all Directions: interdisciplinary research

by Fiona Ferbrache

A glance through the news stories that have featured on Geography Directions over the last fourteen months reveals a cacophony of topics, themes and stories beneath the heading “Geography”.  Physical geography is represented through posts concerning water management, waste, deforestation, and disaster geographies, while the human side of our discipline emerges through migration, urbanization, social exclusion and election issues.  Many of these topics are classified as sub-disciplines of geography (as taught in universities), but they also stretch across borders to other, separate disciplines; international relations, sociology, geology or biology, for example.  Our geographic discipline, it appears, can move in any direction, and thus may benefit from cross-border interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinary research is analysed critically in a forthcoming TIBG article by Dr Donovan (then a PhD geologist/geographer), Prof. Sidaway (geographer) and Dr Stewart (geologist).  These academics came together through the supervision of an ESRC/NERC studentship undertaken by Donovan (2010), and their article evaluates the journeys experienced between geology and geography, as well as the wider tensions and implications for interdisciplinary research.

The article is an empirical contribution to an evolving literature on interdisciplinary scholarship (Bracken & Oughton, 2009; Johnston, 2003) and offers a guide to the type of enabling conditions that should be in place (across university departments) to support such interdisciplinary work to a successful conclusion.  The rewards of such work can be great and I am certain that we can all be encouraged to think beyond our disciplinary boxes a little more.

Donovan, K., Sidaway, J. & Stewart, I. (forthcoming) Bridging the geo-divide: reflections on an interdisciplinary (ESRC⁄NERC) studentship. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

Bracken, L. J. and Oughton, E. A. (2009) Interdisciplinarity within and beyond geography: introduction to Special Section Area 41 371–3

Donovan, K. (2010) Doing social volcanology: exploring
volcanic culture in Indonesia Area 42 117–26

Johnston, R. (2003) Geography: a different sort of discipline Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28 133–41

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