Craziness continues. Such a day I had today. I know that this blog is woefully whiny at the moment, and I am sorry. This is me, though, lately - not at my best. (Have I mentioned that I think I’ve developed an ulcer?)
And perhaps my whininess can be productive of some thoughts, this time. Because what I was feeling particularly demoralized about today was something to do with interdisciplinarity, and what better space than this to think that through?
The context: Each of my three degrees is an interdisciplinary one. To what is sure to be the scandal of many, I don’t have a disciplinary home – I never have. I had my BA and MA in one kind of interdisciplinary program, and my PhD in another kind. I have taught exclusively in such programs – I have done so these last two years post-PhD, and even when I was a TA, my teaching was in another interdisciplinary program.
My own research is not easily categorizable, not at all, as a result of all of this. I draw from, and my writing could be used in, multiple disciplines.
And I was hired to develop an interdisciplinary program here at Scary City/with Potential U. That is what I’m here for, and I know that my interdisciplinary background made me an attractive candidate here.
The Problem: So here I am, trying to develop my interdisciplinary program. Tra la la. (In truth, I am doing next to nothing about this right now because I have so much in the research department, and absolutely no stomach or energy for this admin piece.) What is clear to me is that Theory is going to need to be a requirement to graduate with a minor or major in this program – such is the case in most such programs. And I happen to do Theory, and to teach Theory (quite successfully, if I do say so myself - as those of you who read my rhapsodies about last year’s Theory class might remember). So I want to introduce this Theory course, and to teach it. But my Chair tells me, “there’s this person in [Discipline X] who teaches a course called [Name of my theory course]. You should just consult with this person to make sure they’re okay with what you’re proposing.”
But Chair and I, we both think this won’t be a problem because of course this person will be teaching Theory in [Discipline X], and not the kind of interdisciplinary Theory course that I teach. Tra la la. So I send this professor an email explaining what I’m up to, and attaching my Theory syllabus from last year – which will be very similar to the Theory course I’m teaching as a Special Topics beginning in January, and proposing go on the books as a permanent course.
And what do I get back? This prof’s syllabus for their Discipline X Theory class, which is essentially the same as my interdis Theory course!!!! So we met today, and the only solution to this is to let this Prof teach this course – I can’t propose to put a course on the books which is essentially a duplication of an existing one; it won’t go through. So there you have it – I don’t get to teach the core course in my specialty. I am not pleased.
I’m not angry at this prof, of course – how could I be, when they are teaching such a splendid course? :) And when I value and tout interdisciplinarity? But it does make me think about the way the disciplines are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. And if this happens, do “interdisciplinary scholars” like me become redundant? Do we go the way of the dodo? What, in short, am I doing here, if I can’t develop the courses I want to? This prof made it clear that I would potentially be blocked in the program development I want to do, by all sorts of overlap with all sorts of courses in existing disciplines. I was essentially being told that there was no way to do what I am supposed to be here to do.
So we’re all becoming just one big smoosh? That’s what academia is now? Interdisciplinary puree? I’ve encountered this recently in another way because my friend D is teaching the Intro course in another interdis program, and there is the risk of some overlap between our courses. For god’s sake. You know, smoosh is nice in theory, but I feel like I’m at risk of being smooshed right on out. (And frankly, it makes me want to leave for pastures in which the interdis thing is already sown, and I don't have to spend my energy battling smoosh when I don't even mind smoosh.)