Disciplining Anthropological Demography

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study furthers the epistemological development of anthropological demography, and its role in understanding the demography of Europe. We sketch out broad issues to stimulate new productive interactions and understanding in order to initiate discussion around the overall research agendas of European anthropological demography. We situate anthropological demography against the context of an evolving world of research in which boundaries between academic disciplines have become much more permeable. This is achieved via an overview of recent theoretical debates about the role and nature of disciplinarity, including interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. In order to understand the current state of the art, we sketch out the evolution of anthropological demography, paying particular attention to the different knowledge claims of anthropology and demography. We conclude by summarising the potential disciplinary benefits of interdisciplinarity between anthropology and demography.

1. Introduction

In this chapter we will sketch out broad issues to stimulate new productive interactions and understanding in order to initiate discussion around the overall research agendas of European anthropological demography. Ultimately this chapter aims to further the epistemological development of anthropological demography, and its role in understanding the demography of Europe. We situate anthropological demography against the context of an evolving world of research in which boundaries between academic disciplines have become much more permeable. This is achieved via an overview of recent theoretical debates about the role and nature of disciplinarity, including interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. In order to understand the current state of the art, we sketch out the evolution of anthropological demography, paying particular attention to the different knowledge claims of anthropology and demography.4 We conclude by summarising the potential disciplinary benefits of interdisciplinarity between anthropology and demography.

2. Disciplinarity

2.1 Bridging disciplines: The rise of inter-disciplinary research

Anthropological demography needs to be situated against the context of an evolving world of research in which boundaries between academic disciplines have become much more permeable, in both social science (e.g. gender studies) and physical science, and multi- and interdisciplinary research have become more common, although not necessarily more accepted or any easier to do well. The reasons for this increasing mixing of epistemology and method are manifold, and include globalisation (leading to easier and more frequent transfers of information and researchers), technological developments, and postmodernity (Riley & McCarthy 2003). We must also acknowledge the critical role of research funding in both reacting to and shaping this evolution. International organisations, governments and funding agencies often emphasise inter- or multidisciplinary approaches in tackling research agendas, a position based on an understanding that it is at the boundaries and intersections of different disciplines that productive research agendas can be set and addressed.5 The culture of disciplines means that we must recognise that disciplinary knowledge is, of itself, a social product created and shaped by its disciplinary home. Here, a discipline is defined as "any comparatively self-contained and isolated domain of human experience which possess its own community of experts, with distinctive components such as shared goals, concepts, facts, tacit skills and methodologies" (Braun & Schubert, 2003:183). Disciplines differ in the way in which they organise, produce and assess new knowledge - epistemology is a way of knowing, and each discipline has distinctive tools, concepts, methods and language. Disciplines have epistemological commitments (Schoenberger, 2001:367) which manifest through disciplinary culture, an academic social order that reproduces itself and goes beyond mere adherence to disciplinary tools, concepts, methods and language. …