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Debating Disciplinarity, 35 CRITICAL INQUIRY 749 (2009).


I am a lawyer, and lawyers have their priors. One is that no question is innocent. Every question springs from an agenda that determines the range of acceptable answers. So if I amasked, as I have been for these remarks, “what is a discipline?” I want to know who is asking and for what purpose.

Sometimes questions of disciplinarity seek criteria for validating the “eccentric” angle of vision of a particular “intellectual” community in terms of its “methodology,” or “subject-matter,” or “curriculum,” or shared “purpose.” Sometimes questions of disciplinarity express apprehension about the “subordinate status” of a colonized discipline, or about the meaning of interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, or “dedisciplinarity.” And sometimes questions of disciplinarity are meant to initiate the quest for an “indiscipline” that will adequately express an “antiprofessionalism” hostile to “the institutional structures by means of which the various academic disciplines establish and extend their territorial claims.”

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