Association for Interdisciplinary Studies Conference 2019

‘Global contexts demand local knowledge’ argues the AIS Conference

Association for Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) Conference 24-26 October

7 November 2019

From 24-26 October, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) hosted a sold-out international Association for Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) conference. At the Roeterseiland Campus of the UvA, 30 different nationalities from five continents came together to exchange knowledge about interdisciplinarity in global contexts.

Transdisciplinarity as a next step

During the conference, it became clear that transdisciplinarity is the future in the search for solutions to complex social problems, such as migration, security, climate change or combating poverty: input from governments, NGOs, the business sector, but also from residents or other interested parties is therefore essential to that search. For that reasons, students must learn all kinds of meta-skills as part of their education, which they require in a rapidly-changing future. This includes systems thinking, scenario planning, intercultural communication and critical thinking. Important questions during the AIS conference were: how can we incorporate non-academic insights into academic research? Are we sufficiently factoring in the power relationships that play a role when determining the research agenda? It became clear in any case that global challenges, such as climate change, migration or economic inequality, have a global character on the one hand, but always appear different on the other hand when considered on a regional or local level.

Lucy Wenting, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies on the ‘re-design’ of interdisciplinary education: “The focus on certain social themes may change in the future, but the meta-skills that we impart to students with interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary education ensure that they are ‘future-proof’. The AIS conference reinforced our belief that we must teach students skills with which they can integrate their knowledge and learn to be open to finding common ground between different fields of study. In addition, it is also important that they realise that research is always part of a specific social context. Since: the group of stakeholders that you involve when collecting your data or developing your questions will partly determine the outcome.”


Regionalism as forms of knowledge clusters

In the field of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, the internationally respected Prof. Julie Thompson Klein (who has been consulted by our own Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences [KNAW] and various Dutch universities) discussed how the global context has an impact on the problems and challenges that interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers face: “we should think more about the complexity of regionalism and how every region can have different outcomes on the reflection of a global theme, such as climate change, and the different forms of knowledge being brought to bear. Bianca Vienna Baptista wrote an interesting article in 2017 about regionalism not being restricted by geography, and that we need to see regionalism as a form of clusters of knowledge. What lies behind it is the prioritising of academic knowledge being challenged by regional, national and local scales, and trying to bridge the gap between academic, or colonial knowledge, and indigenous knowledge or knowledge of lay people. There is a power dynamic we cannot ignore. “

Curious about the content of this conference? You can watch a video registration of the plenary paneldiscussions online by clicking on the button below.

Would you like to know more on how interdisciplinary education is designed and implemented at the University of Amsterdam together with the IIS, click here.
More info about the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies can be found here.

Published by  Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies