Transdisciplinarity and Participatory Development: A Critical Realist Approach

By Alex Koutsouris.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The need to solve increasingly complex problems with a view to sustainability reinforces ‘cross-disciplinary’ forms of learning and problem solving ‘integrating’ perspectives and insights; thus, the cooperation of diverse academic experts (and, lately, practitioners) is called for. Among the multiple forms of ‘integration’ found in literature, transdisciplinary approaches, such as ‘post-normal’ and ‘mode 2’ science, are especially interesting. In the present paper, a comprehensive a review of the main modes of ‘cross-disciplinary’ research (and development intervention) is followed by a critical examination based on the tenets of Critical Realism (CR). The latter, with its realist, differentiated and stratified ontology allows for new insights concerning ‘cross-disciplinarity’. For CR the integrative part of ‘cross-disciplinary’ research is the integration of knowledge (i.e., close collaboration among researchers from different disciplines) about a complex phenomenon. Furthermore, the relation between researchers as well as between researchers and practitioners is conceived to be, despite difficulties/barriers, a reciprocal learning process. Finally, some of the problems concerning the cooperation of experts and local populations (‘participatory processes’) are addressed. Emphasis is given to the so-called ‘external’ obstacles, i.e. the hegemony of the experts within ‘participatory’ projects’ (hegemony of problems and hegemony of appointing participants) and the techno-financial bias of projects (‘dual’ logic of projects). The aforementioned issues provide interesting hints for the theoretical and practical work of experts and practitioners especially those involved in development work.

Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Critical Realism, Participatory Development, Sustainability

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.253-264. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 674.364KB).

Dr. Alex Koutsouris

Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Attica, Greece

Alex Koutsouris has obtained M(Agr)Sc and PhD degrees in Agricultural Extension & Education and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Dept of Agricultural Economics & Rural Development, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece. His research interests revolve around sustainable rural development focusing on topics such as extension and communication, training & education, agrotourism, project design and evaluation, with emphasis on systemic and participatory approaches. He has published in international journals and conference proceedings on the abovementioned topics, been a co-editor in scientific journals and publications, participated in international projects and served as a member of the boards of relevant scientific societies and international conferences, seminars and meetings.

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