ruthlessly, in spite of itself,
the enlightenment has extinguished any trace of its own self-consciousness
We wish to think in the spaces
between disciplines, their borderlands, so as to challenge the framing
and disciplining of knowledge within modernity. We wish to promote
and support new forms of writing which blur the lines between fiction,
journalism, and essayistic prose. And politically, we feel that
the issue of borders between nations, sexualities, economies,
identities and peoples brings together some of the most pressing
issues in the 21st century, issues which drive violence and conflict,
mark out profound dilemmas over power, sovereignty and autonomy
under globalisation, and remain central to the question of whether
we can continue to live together and survive.
In intellectual terms, the
borderlands e-journal aims to create an open, productive
space for the transdisciplinary enterprise - an enterprise that
is slowly becoming an ever more common feature of postgraduate and
academic research, and is undoubtedly helping to transform the university
and the broader public culture, often against its will. Its implications
are potentially more profound than latter-day concerns about the
rise of cultural studies or the impact so-called postmodernism has
had on intellectual culture. Hence, we hope that in the spaces of
borderlands e-journal you will find
economics merging with feminism, continental philosophy and queer
theory, politics with cultural theory and history, or the rarefied
concerns of political philosophy encountering the complexity, materiality
and rush of contemporary events.
e-journal aims to support transdisciplinarity in two ways.
The first is to promote shared
yet diverse spaces of intellectual communication, scholarship and
practice. Over time you will read here work from most of the disciplines
in the humanities by establishing this shared space we hope
to encourage greater dialogue and cross-fertilisation across the
human and social sciences. This pushes beyond multi- or inter-disciplinarity,
to encourage writers to draw on tools from other disciplines, to
question their own, and to recast the way in which they construct
and pursue the apparently stable objects of their inquiry.
The second, more profound and
problematic, sense of transdisciplinarity is a blurring of disciplinary
boundaries in a way that both creates new hybrids of knowledge and
practice, and forces a recasting of the internal rules which govern
disciplinary truths rules which define their boundaries,
their shared norms and biases, permissible research projects and
forms of writing.
For too long some of the most
influential disciplines in the humanities - disciplines such as
politics and economics, which determine the course of nations and
the human possibilities of millions have shared more with
the enterprise of "Newspeak" in which the boundaries of
the thinkable perpetually contract and ossify. As Orwell implicitly
understood, this is a serious political danger, both for the practice
of democracy and the enterprise of policy. It reduces knowledge
to an instrumental tool, a political commodity, and mouths an arrogant
rebuke to the liberal premises of the university as a free space
of intellectual inquiry.
Yes, knowledge needs structure
and logic, but it also needs freedom and surprise, sudden disjunctions
and conjunctions, caution and daring at once. Theory needs to be
constantly challenged, both on its own epistemological terrain and
at the crossroads of its intersection with history and practice.
Theory needs to find itself surprised by events, even as it breaks
up their structure of obviousness and commonsense.
At its best, transdisciplinarity
offers a way out of the hall of mirrors of Cartesian modernity -
a modernity which has used a positivist, instrumental image of knowledge
to mask practices that have wrought such enormous (and often damaging)
transformations of material and human space. Transdisciplinarity
promotes a more self-critical, contingent mode of knowledge - it
searches knowledge for its effects rather than its truth, in a profound
reversal of Modernitys fetish for certainty over responsibility.
the study of monsters
The University has been slow to
recognise and allow for transdisciplinary inquiry - as Robert Hodge
argued in a 1995 issue of the australian universities review,
while more and more postgraduates are pursuing such an approach
to their research, they run the risk of being inappropriately supervised
and assessed. He makes a passionate argument for students to be
bold enough to hold to this approach, and for universities to change
their culture to reflect the shift.
For Hodge, the transdisciplinary turn is a kind of Kuhnian revolution
or, in Foucaults terms, an epistemic rupture.
It is a question of refusing the way in which disciplines, whilst
transmitting useful and important knowledges, also repulse
a whole teratology of learning - teratology being the
study of monsters.
Hodge exhorts us to be open to
the monstrous, to take seriously those problems, beliefs and
experiences that are annulled by a dominant discipline, whether
they be intractably personal or contaminated by the disreputable
demotic or popular, by passion or anger or delight, by the desire
to change the world or to dream a new one. Being a transdisciplinary
scholar then is not to seek refuge in a new mastery but to place
oneself, as a site and vector of knowledge, at risk - to seek to
become something other than what one is. it might be to seek, as
Jane Bennett has argued, productive new hybrids of thought, machine,
history and subjectivity.
Here the troubling convergences
forced on western thought in recent decades - between mind and body,
reason and unreason, man and animal, male and female, self and other
- are matched by a dissolution of the boundaries which have marked
off disciplines from one another and effectively organised powerful
systems of learning, pedagogy, research and knowledge. For these
reasons, practising transdisciplinary scholarship can itself feel
dangerous and troubling, and may produce a certain loneliness. Yet
however different, transdisciplinarity is still inspired by the
ideals which lie at the root of the liberal tradition, even as it
questions its form, limits and history. This is a necessary postmodern
irony - because while such work criticises and undermines the Enlightenment,
as a historical experience and a series of claims, it continues
to argue within its terms. It asks for free and open debate, democratic
spaces of thought, for the university to live up to an ideal it
claims to embody. It speaks in the terms of ethics, justice and
freedom, even as it rethinks and modifies them.
global borderlands of thought
calling writers and readers
So against the difficulties of
uncomprehending teachers and institutions, limited publishing spaces,
hostile disciplinary police and closed spaces of dialogue and debate
- in short, the epistemic power-politics of modern public life -
borderlands e-journal offers a partial,
yet globally accessible, opening. We hope that the global reach
provided by the world wide web will be a powerful attraction to
scholars to publish with us, and will develop readers and networks
from more diverse places, especially beyond the academic power centres
of North America and Western Europe.
e-journal aims to be rhizomatic and perpetually unfinished.
It will be free to access, and free from the delays and costs associated
with hard-copy publication. Similarly no issue will necessarily
be closed or complete - more can always be added, or linked together,
to continue debate and enhance understanding.
We want you to submit ideas, thoughts
and work - although given our very limited administrative resources,
we ask you to read our guidelines
for contributors first. There you will also see what material
and ideas we may be seeking from you to help us make this a better
We hope you will join us in this
venture - that you will read borderlands e-journal,
write for it, enjoy it, and criticise it. Above all, we hope you
will use it as a resource to conceive and practice the as yet unthought.