Competing interdisciplinarities: report from Cerisy

October 11, 2013

Every once in a while, it is worth reflecting on concepts that have become so central to discourse that they are repeated ad nauseum but without any novelty. So it goes with ‘interdisciplinarity’, a pet term of any university or research administrator. It is widely desired or required, without much thinking about what it means. For there can be multiple interdisciplinarities, or competing interdisciplinary approaches (as I show for political ecology and resilience, see below). Interdisciplinarity can be a practice, a goal, a tool, or an outcome; it can be individual or team-based; it can be ‘deep’ or ‘shallow’; it can be a spirit of enquiry or a formal requirement.

These were some of the inspirations I gained from attending, this first week of October, an intimate conference on Interdisciplinarités entre natures et sociétés, in Cerisy-la-Salle, France. Read the rest of this entry »

Living with, living without weeds: bridging theory and practice

March 9, 2013

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop by this name in Wollongong, organized by Lesley Head, Jenny Atchison, and Nick Gill. With keynote papers by Richard Hobbs, known for the ‘novel ecosystems‘ concept, and by Brendon Larson, known for his book Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability, and with presentations by participants as diverse as uniformed state Noxious Weeds Inspectors, indigenous rangers, government scientists, and historians of science, we kicked off a fantastic conversation on how weeds in the landscape are already a ‘new normal’. The threat of invasion is old news; the challenge of living with invasives is the new. In this respect, managers of environmental weeds could learn from those who have focused on cropfield or pasture weeds – they have been ‘living with’ weeds for a long time, and don’t see the world in such black and white terms.  For more information and comments, see this Blog by the workshop organisers.

Protest and politics at the Santiago geography conference

December 1, 2011

During the closing ceremony of the 2011 International Geographical Union (IGU) regional meeting in Santiago, Chile, two students discretely entered and distributed small flyers alerting attendees to the conference venue’s history of torture during the regime of Pinochet (see images below).  They were gently escorted out by military officers in white dress uniforms.  After a few more platitudinous speeches by the conference luminaries, the students came back, this time with a paper banner that a military officer succeeded in ripping apart.  As they were again guided out, one shouted words that were obviously not translated by the interpreters in their booth.  The speeches resumed as if nothing had happened.

Read the rest of this entry »