The Missing Links – Interdisciplinarity in sociological inquiry

By Donna Carmichael

Terrific panel reflecting on the historical journey of The Sociological Review, and the importance of the Manifesto in guiding the TSR and its Foundation to explore new pathways to the creation of sociological knowledge. The Sociological Review manifesto encourages sociological researchers to embrace an ethos of openness and interdisciplinarity, including: engagement with the real world, participation in discourses and activism with a social justice purpose, and publishing articles that are ‘demonstrably alive’. The focus on interdisciplinary research is especially exciting for me…having spent many years in the corporate and entrepreneurial world, I’m highly sensitized to the ‘messiness’ of real-world issues, especially pressing socio-economic issues arising from the financialization of housing, dispossession and displacement of low-income families and communities through social cleansing, and escalating inequality. I am heartened by the increase in interdisciplinary sociological research, incorporating anthropology, political studies, geography, cultural studies, law and criminology, health and medical studies, and more. But my sense is that there are more opportunities for broader collaboration and co-creation across academic disciplines; however, I suspect that some of these disciplines may be somewhat distasteful and possibly bordering on ‘verboten’ territory for perhaps the more traditional sociologists. After listening to Bev Skeggs and Michaela Benson and others on the panel state emphatically that the TSR is open to new conversations and interventions, my thinking is that we need to expand our collaborative horizons to an even greater extent by embracing areas of scholarship that may make us feel uncomfortable, suspicious, or fearful. When I posed a question along these lines to the panel, one of the audience members suggested that cognitive psychology and neuroscience offer tremendous opportunities to co-create knowledge to enrich sociological thought – what an exciting and innovative idea, I thought! But I suspect there are other areas of scholarship that be less appealing, and perhaps even distasteful, to sociological researchers for collaborative exploration. One area of scholarly research that comes to mind is business studies, which includes finance, accounting, marketing and other subject areas under the umbrella of business or management studies (oh, I can almost hear the groans and snickering!). As Bev pointed out, sociologists are not typically conversant in the language or practicalities of business, let alone the scholarly research in this field. But, in the interests of responding to the TSR’s call for new and innovative avenues of potential collaboration, my view is that we need to keep an open, non-judgemental and inquiring mind, and support each other in our intellectual exploration of the possibilities that these new fields may offer for co-creation of sociological knowledge. Food for thought!

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