Social Sciences Blog

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Interdisciplinary Research

The Division of Social Sciences encompasses 20 programs and departments, allowing for intense collaboration and cross-disciplinary work between professors, students, and outside researchers.

During the spring 2012 semester, professors and graduate students in the social sciences participated in a Spencer Foundation-funded seminar series on interdisciplinary research revolving around the topic of equity and inequity. Fueled in part by the public conversations and media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the seminar examined how the social sciences research, analyze, and portray questions

Led by coordinators Joyce Antler, then-head of the Division of Social Sciences and the Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and Women's and Gender Studies; Marya Levenson, the Harry S. Levitan Director of Teacher Education and Professor of the Practice of Education; and Sharon Feiman-Nemser, the Mandel Professor of Jewish Education; and Rachana Agarwal (Anthropology doctoral student); the seminar series participants met weekly and included professors and students in History, Anthropology, Sociology, American Studies, Psychology, Near Eastern Jewish Studies, Education, Economics, and International and Global Studies.

The Seminar had three main purposes:

1. To explore the potential, limitations and challenges of interdisciplinary. What is involved in learning with and talking to people across disciplinary boundaries? What are the affordances and constraints of this kind of research and teaching?

2. To focus on issues of equity and the ways that different disciplines conceptualize and study equity issues. What are the chief questions and concerns across the disciplines regarding equity and inequity? Can we identify and map these concerns are they are raised and investigated
in different disciplines?

3. To consider the opportunities, pitfalls and challenges of interdisciplinary teaching and learning. How can we provide a foundation in disciplinary thinking while also introducing students to the potential of interdisciplinary learning? What goals and pedagogies are appropriate for interdisciplinary teaching?

The seminar's syllabus and selected readings are available in the sidebar. Look for more on the impact of the Spencer Seminar on participants and on collaborative research in the social sciences in the coming months.