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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

2014 Interdisciplinary Conference

Transfusion and Transformation: the Creative Potential of Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange

An international conference hosted by the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University, July 15th-17th 2014

This international conference examines the creative potential of interdisciplinarity, exploring how the comparison and exchange of disciplinary approaches can offer fresh insights and spark new lines of thought, not only complementing the strengths of more focused disciplinary approaches, but also comprising an important part of the process through which all disciplines negotiate, develop and transform over time.

Interdisciplinary collaboration requires researchers to leave their familiar disciplinary territories and enter unfamiliar intellectual spaces. It requires a willingness to engage with and learn from people who have very different understandings of the world, different practices, and – quite often – different beliefs and values. The transfusion of these can produce what Meyer and Land have called ‘troublesome knowledge’.¹

Like Adam and Eve disciplinary specialists tend to find it difficult to leave the comforting Eden of their discipline, to cross the boundary into interdisciplinarity… an encounter with the wise and provocative serpent of troublesome knowledge might be required to occasion the ontological shift required, though the recipe of transformation may well be a degree of ‘ontological insecurity’ (Giddens 1991)² or ‘boundariless anxiety’ (Bergquist 1995)³. (Meyer and Land 2011: 7)

But comparative exchanges can also encourage highly creative approaches to research, generating new theoretical directions, innovative methods and original outcomes. By exchanging knowledges, interdisciplinary collaboration has the potential to generate new thinking and transform the way that participants think about their own work. This can be tremendously exciting and rewarding.

As well as exploring the theoretical and methodological challenges afforded by interdisciplinary collaboration, this conference will therefore highlight the opportunities that it offers, seeking papers or posters concerned with cases in which creative comparisons and transfusions of knowledge have served to transform research, teaching, and academic disciplines themselves. It aims to showcase leading interdisciplinary research and to bring together people who have conducted (or are interested in conducting) collaborative projects. In doing so, it hopes to encourage fresh discourses about interdisciplinarity, to suggest productive ways to integrate diverse disciplinary perspectives, and to establish new intellectual common ground.

[Related texts]

College of Fellows

In addition to an open call for panels, the Institute for Advanced Study has invited its former Fellows to submit panel proposals. Some of these reflect the annual themes under which they undertook Fellowships in Durham or propose other themes. IAS annual themes to date include: The Legacy of Charles Darwin; Modelling; Being Human; Water; Futures; Time and Light. There is also potential to link with the 2014-15 theme: Emergence, and Durham’s major interdisciplinary project on Tipping Points, which is central to the IAS’s activities in that year. As well as encouraging its College of Fellows to reunite in Durham in 2014, these panels will be open to other researchers with interests in these themes.

Institutes of Advanced Study

An additional collaborative panel is planned, including representatives from other Institutes of Advanced Study around the world, to enable an international comparison of universities’ diverse efforts to facilitate interdisciplinary research.


Call for Papers - Timetable and Submissions

The call for papers is now closed.

The Conference Committee

Professor Veronica Strang (

Professor Barbara Graziosi, (

Professor Rob Barton (

Professor Martin Ward (

Professor Ray Land (

Professor Tom McLeish (

[1] Meyer, J. and Land, R. 2003. ‘Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge – Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising’ in C. Rust (ed) Improving Student Learning – Ten Years On,Oxford: OCSLD.
[2] Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: self and society in the late modern age, Cambridge: Polity Press.
[3] Bergquist, W. 1995. Quality Through Access, Access With Quality: the new imperative for higher education, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.