Epistemology and Politics: The Rise and Fall of an Interdisciplinary Program

By Sandra Bell, Mary Delaney, Jane Gordon and Audrey MacNevin.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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

The rationale for interdisciplinary study and some of the unique challenges its continued evolution faces in the twenty-first century are investigated in this paper drawing from a critical assessment of an existing Canadian interdisciplinary and interuniversity program in practice. We trace a sharp disjuncture between the primary ideological commitment in Women’s Studies programs to activist-based interdisciplinary work and the uncritical progress narrative that characterizes the current university climate. Intended as a means by which mainstream inquiry and knowledge might be challenged and transformed, Women’s Studies programs in Canada currently face “improvement” in the form of adding Gender to their titles. This paper argues that rather than solving the theoretical and epistemological concerns emanating from Women’s Studies scholarship, the synthesis of gender with women both undermines the social justice orientation of Women’s Studies programs and suppresses efforts to expand the epistemological potential of the program through increased interdisciplinarity.

Keywords: Intellectual Holism, Critical Program Assessment, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Discipline Legitimacy, Marginalization, Progress Narrative, Identity Politics

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 8, pp.71-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 577.655KB).

Sandra Bell

Associate Professor, Sociology and Criminology Department, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Sandra Bell has a BA and MA in Sociology and Demography from the University of Western Ontario, London Ontario, Canada and a PhD in Sociology and Criminology from the University of Toronto, Toronto Canada. She is currently an associate professor of Criminology in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. Her research interests include comparative and historical youth justice law reform and youth criminology with an emphasis on girls. Her interdisciplinary experience comes from teaching and coordinating undergraduate and graduate programs in Criminology and Women’s Studies while located in a department primarily consisting of Sociologists. Here she teaches courses in research methods and statistics as well as substantive courses on youth crime and justice and feminist methodologies.

Dr. Mary Delaney

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Department of Women's Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Jane Gordon

Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Audrey MacNevin

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


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