One Community or Two Solitudes: Ontology, Epistemology, and Praxiology of Canadian and American Leisure Research

By Dawson, Don | Journal of Leisure Research, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

One Community or Two Solitudes: Ontology, Epistemology, and Praxiology of Canadian and American Leisure Research


Dawson, Don, Journal of Leisure Research


Ed Jackson invites us to consider "the extent to which [leisure] research--and researchers--[in Canada and the U.S.A.] can be considered as a single, integrated community, or, alternatively, two solitudes existing side-by-side but in intellectual isolation from each other." For Canadians this is but another instance of a recurrent theme--to what extent does American hegemony influence, or dominate, Canada? Although some Americans may find the question to be little more than a curiosity, it does provide an occasion for useful self-examination and collective reflection. The method applied by Jackson in attempting to answer his question is to compare the dissemination of published research (articles in selected leisure journals and papers presented at selected leisure conferences) by American and Canadian leisure researchers. The dimensions explored include "the amount, timing, and longevity" of research activity and "whether the journal or conference was American or Canadian." Thus, researchers are categorized as publishing/presenting in (1) only Canadian journals/conferences; (2) only American journals/conferences, and; (3) both Canadian and American journals/conferences. His conclusion is that there are "two solitudes" in that Canadians and Americans tend to publish articles/present papers in their own journals/conferences. While this is especially true for American leisure researchers, the more productive scholars from both countries do not follow the pattern, such that within that group there is a trend towards "one community."

The root of Jackson's inquiry concerns the notion of what distinguishes one academic community from another. Jackson wants to know if Canadian and American leisure researchers are separate, distinct intellectual communities working in relative isolation. To address this issue one must have an understanding of what constitutes an intellectual discipline or academic community. Shermis (1962) held that such a community must:

1. have a recognizable tradition and identifiable history of its own;

2. have an organized body of knowledge it has developed, and;

3. address solutions to problems of significance to society. (p. 84)

Consequently, if Canadian and Americans make up separate leisure research communities they ought to have distinct historical traditions of research, different bodies of knowledge, and their own sets of solutions to problems of leisure in their respective societies. Moreover, any such intellectual, academic, research community will display identifiable structural features that allow it to organize its pattern of inquiry and identify its object of inquiry. Erekson (1992) describes three basic kinds of disciplinary structure--organizational, substantive, and syntactical structure. Organizational structure includes the organization of research production, academic curricula, as well as the structure of knowledge communication. Substantive structure deals with the questions to be asked, the data needed, and the ideas used to interpret the data. Syntactical structure addresses the manner in which data are collected, and the methods and techniques applied. Thus, if the scholarly leisure studies communities in Canada and the U.S.A. are separate and isolated they would each have their own identifiable organization of the field of "Leisure Studies", unique methodological syntax, and differing substantive areas of inquiry. To what extent does Jackson's investigation address these fundamental issues? Can any examination of published articles and papers presented at conferences provide clues to these essential questions?

Given the profundity of these considerations, Jackson ostensibly invites the reader on a metaphysical journey--how is leisure scholarship (in Canada and the U.S.A.) conceived, organized, and how does it work? It is useful, then, to investigate these questions from a paradigmatic perspective (see, for example, Hemingway, 1999), especially if, as Rojek (1985) claims, leisure is a field of study characterized by "multiparadigmatic rivalry.

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