Bahlool, Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies,
was the guest speaker for the weekly seminar at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies on Wednesday, 14 March 2018. Bahlool’s intervention was
focused on the concept of interdisciplinarity.
began his presentation by stating that while “interdisciplinarity” was a widespread
concept in the Western academy, it remained relatively limited in terms of
exposure in Arab institutions. Bahlool also traced the origins of the concept
to the 1920s, at the latest. While an exact,
uncontested definition for interdisciplinarity may always be difficult, Bahlool
nonetheless attempted to explore some working definitions of
interdisciplinarity which could be satisfactory to a wide range of people. Examples
he offered included the use of statistical tools in psychology or even the use
of mathematical methods in the physical sciences. Yet interdisciplinarity could
also refer, offered Bahlool, to the cooperation by specialists in distinct
academic disciplines to studying a single multi-faceted issue. One topical
example of such an approach, offered Bahlool, was the involvement of physical
scientists, engineers, geologists and even ethicists in studying the
ramifications of global warming.
also suggested that there was a further, more radical definition of “interdisciplinarity”
which entailed a complete, holistic integration of a variety of theoretical
approaches from across a range of disciplines, making it impossible to
attribute the accruement of knowledge to any one specific disciplinary method. Borrowing
from another writer, Bahlool compared this to the “fakhfakhina” fruit
cocktail commonly found in Arab cities: it had a rich, complex fruity taste
which couldn’t be traced to any single ingredient.
also dismissed protests that interdisciplinarity would lead to the loss of
identity for individual academic specialisms; instead, the fields to which are
amenable to an interdisciplinary approach—climate science, for example, or Gulf
studies or women’s studies—do not stand as specialisms devoted to a more well
defined area of knowledge, such as physics (the study of physical objects and
energy), the study of living organisms (biology) or the study of social phenomenon
(as in the social sciences).
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