Gaurav Desai contributes to our "Interdisciplinarity Now" series by reflecting on his experiences on the selection panel of the Council’s largest fellowship competition, the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) Program. Desai highlights a number of elements that make a research project interdisciplinary—drawing on the conceptual frameworks and methods of multiple disciplines (especially those fields not immediately proximate to one’s home discipline) and framing the research in ways that would resonate across a range of fields and approaches.
From Our Programs
Programs and activities of the SSRC are focused on scholarly innovation and border-crossing, deepening understanding of major public issues, and providing opportunities for the next generation of social scientists. This section of Items provides a window into what we are learning from current work at the Council including intellectual breakthroughs and challenges; building networks across fields, institutions, and parts of the world; impacts on practice and policy; and the craft of organizing social knowledge production, dissemination, and use.
A major SSRC project of the past decade, Producing Knowledge on World Regions, has taken an in-depth look at the configuration of regional studies and internationalization in higher education. One component of the project focused specifically on the Middle East, and here program director Seteney Shami and Cynthia Miller-Idriss draw attention to key transformations and continuities in Middle East studies and how they relate to both regional dynamics and American perceptions and policies.
William G. O’Neill, director of the SSRC’s Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, reflects on what a Donald Trump presidency may mean for the United Nations’ core objectives of international peace and security, economic development, and human rights. Based on candidate Trump’s public pronouncements and President-elect Trump’s cabinet appointments thus far, O’Neill envisions a dramatically different engagement, or perhaps a disengagement, with the UN’s mission and work.
Based in part on research in the SSRC’s archives, Jeremy Adelman and Margarita Fajardo chronicle an important moment in both the history of social science and the political economy of Latin America—the Council’s Joint Committee on Latin American Studies' work on the roots of bureaucratic authoritarianism. Through the 1970s, an interdisciplinary network of scholars from across the Americas interrogated the political and economic dimensions of military rule in Latin America. At the same time, insights from Latin American social science both informed the democratic transitions to come and reshaped research agendas in US scholarship.
Delia Wendel, a fellow of the SSRC’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship program, demonstrates how spatial and social research strategies can be combined through her work in post-genocide Rwanda. Wendel’s contribution engages issues raised in our "Interdisciplinarity Now" theme through a critical analysis of Rwanda’s villagization policy as part of its peacebuilding efforts after a devastating civil war. Wendel’s work speaks directly to the concerns of the SSRC’s African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and its blog Kujenga Amani.
Based on a recent talk given to our Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa fellows at a July workshop in Nairobi, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o provides a wide-ranging and personal reflection on the importance of conducting basic research in East Africa under daunting circumstances. Anyang’ Nyong’o, both a leading African social scientist and a current member of the Kenyan Parliament, makes the case for scholarly independence at a time when demands for relevance can impede critical analysis.
The Digital Culture program is organizing a series of meetings, cochaired by Mary Lee Kennedy and Michael Schudson, under the heading of "Curating Knowledge Under Digital Conditions." The following introduction frames the first of those meetings, held in May 2016 at the New York Public Library, and the broader contexts informing the working group.
The SSRC’s Measuring College Learning (MCL) project has concluded its first phase in developing faculty-derived learning outcomes for a diverse set of undergraduate majors. In this essay, Richard Arum and Eleanor Blair discuss the intention and scope of the project, as well as detailing how they arrived at the result of their work, Improving Quality in American Higher Education. Faculty panels convened across six disciplines found, despite their diversity, that learning in majors should cohere principally around concepts and competencies, rather than content knowledge in and of itself.
On the occasion of the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, Eric Hershberg and Stanley Katz reflect on twenty years of the Council’s work in building bridges to the Cuban scholarly community under complex and politically-charged circumstances. From supporting the preservation of Hemingway’s papers at his Cuban residence to helping to bring Cuban economists into a global conversation, SSRC’s Cuba Program helped create the conditions for the current expansion of scholarly ties.
With the civil war in Colombia hopefully nearing a settlement, attention is turning to creating new economic opportunities, not least for demobilized combatants. The mining industry may play a key role here, and Renata Segura explains why through discussing the results of the SSRC’s Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum's (CPPF) recent work with the Working Group on Mining in Colombia (GDIAM). The working group report, Proposals for a Shared Vision on Mining in Colombia, is based on intense deliberations with all affected actors and emphasizes the opportunity to proactively shape the development of an inclusive, resilient, and competitive mining industry.