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.
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.
David Engerman examines the historical origins and development of “area studies” in the United States as a key example of an interdisciplinary project. He argues that current debates on interdisciplinarity, focusing principally on research output and collaboration, obscure the central role of pedagogy in the development of area studies and the continued relevance of interdisciplinary approaches for teaching and training in today’s academy.
Jennifer Hochschild’s contribution is the first of several essays in our “What Is Inequality?” series that reflect on how university-based programs and institutes promote research and training on inequality. Hochschild outlines how the program she leads at Harvard provides both disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives for the study of social policies that shape or address inequality. She then discusses three understudied substantive dimensions of inequality that demand further attention from students of social policy: deeper knowledge of those at top of the socioeconomic ladder, the relationship between economic and political inequalities, and better understanding of the trade-offs involved when inequality increases within historically marginalized groups.