8 May 2013 All day Girton College



Conference summary

The Independent Social Research Foundation exists to fund social science research that is interdisciplinary and innovative. But what is the value of interdisciplinarity to the social sciences? What is interdisciplinarity? Does it imply a directive towards the ideal of a unitary social science, or a pragmatic attempt to reduce insularity and factionalism? Is its purpose to promote interchange of methods and concepts between existing disciplines, or to break down demarcations between them and allow ‘new’ disciplines to emerge? Distinct ‘logics’ of interdisciplinarity have been canvassed; has interdisciplinarity now become a ‘portmanteau concept’?
The intended result of interdisciplinary work is often said to be ‘innovation’. Interdisciplinarity produces new theories and concepts: innovation results from applying new categories and new technologies – new ways of seeing the world and doing things in it. But is there anything more to this than re-describing what is there ‘anyway’ and putting it to better, more efficient, or just different use, always in pursuit of the same human goals? Are we condemned to re-discovery, of the old in a new guise?  And (an old question) would we recognise the truly new if we had never encountered it before?
Questions such as these ramify into many disciplines and invite many responses. The Workshop takes an empirical approach by considering the interdisciplinary research the ISRF is currently funding, presented by some of the ISRF’s Fellows:

  • Jacob Copeman (Social Anthropology) – ‘The politics of names and naming in India’
  • Oliver Dowlen (Politics) – ‘Sortition and the requirement for state impartiality in transitional and developing democracies’
  • David Graeber (Anthropology) – 'The state as a convergence of heterogeneous elements: a deep historical approach’
  • Jonathan Hearn (Political/Historical Sociology) – ‘The Transformation of Competition: a study in the formation of modernity and liberal societies’
  • Matt Matravers (Politics) – ‘Responsibility Without Desert’
  • Pál Nyíri (History/Anthropology) – ‘The World Seen From China: How the Emerging Circuit of Chinese Foreign Correspondents Shapes China's View of the World’
  • Juliane Reinecke (Organization Studies) – ‘‘Gold is gold is gold is gold’ – Is it? The Politics of Values and Economies of Worth’
  • Andrea Ruggeri (Political Science) – ‘Political Entrepreneurs and Civil Wars’

The questions about interdisciplinarity, innovation and discovery, and doubtless others as well, will be debated by a panel including David Runciman (Politics), Michael Ledger-Lomas (History), Susan Smith (Geography), and Marilyn Strathern (Anthropology).

Free online registration available or visit www.isrf.org for more information.




Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance: Stuart Wilson


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk