School of Human Ecology Seminar Series
Talk by Sharachchandra Lele, ATREE, Bangalore
'Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Environment: Insights from research on tropical forests'
Tuesday, 9 October 2012, Room 316 Dwarka Campus
That understanding and responding to the environmental crisis requires interdisciplinary thinking is now almost passé. But implementing interdisciplinary and integrated analysis, especially within academia, is easier said than done. On the one hand, it involves negotiating the research-action boundary. On the other hand, it involves bridging not just the ‘big divide’ between the natural and social sciences, but also the ‘bigger divide’ within the social sciences. I offer a four-dimensional framework of values, theory, methods and institutions to understand the barriers to interdisciplinarity in environmental research and problem-solving. I then use research on forest degradation as an example to illustrate how disciplinary perspectives constitute different combination of values, theories and methods to arrive at different conclusions about an environmental problem. Moving towards a ‘holistic’ understanding requires recognizing both the strengths and limitations of each perspective, speaking to multiple values and bridging seemingly incompatible theories by remaining somewhat ‘indisciplined’. This has significant implications for how we structure interdisciplinary teaching programmes.