Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Culture of Disciplines

By Paul R. Trowler; Tony Becher | Go to book overview

3
Academic Disciplines

The nature of a discipline

The concept of an academic discipline is not altogether straightforward, in that, as is true of many concepts, it allows room for some uncertainties of application. There may be doubts, for example, whether statistics is now sufficiently separate from its parent discipline, mathematics, to constitute a discipline on its own. The answer will depend on the extent to which leading academic institutions recognize the hiving off in terms of their organizational structures (whether, that is, they number statistics among their fully-fledged departments), and also on the degree to which a freestanding international community has emerged, with its own professional associations and specialist journals. In some of the typical instances of dispute, certain institutions may have decided to establish departments in a particular field but may find that the intellectual validity of those departments is under challenge from established academic opinion (as has happened in the case of black studies, viniculture and parapsychology). Disciplines are thus in part identified by the existence of relevant departments; but it does not follow that every department represents a discipline. International currency is an important criterion, as is a general though not sharply defined set of notions of academic credibility, intellectual substance, and appropriateness of subject matter. Despite such apparent complications, however, people with any interest and involvement in academic affairs seem to have little difficulty in understanding what a discipline is, or in taking a confident part in discussions about borderline or dubious cases.


Disciplines and organizational structures

One way of looking at disciplines is through a structural framework, noting how they are manifested in the basic organizational components of the HE system (e.g. Clark 1983; Evans 1995). Such a perspective tends to highlight

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Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Culture of Disciplines
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiii
  • Abbreviations xvi
  • 1 - Landscapes, Tribal Territories and Academic Cultures 1
  • 2 - Points of Departure 23
  • 3 - Academic Disciplines 41
  • 4 - Overlaps, Boundaries and Specialisms 58
  • 5 - Aspects of Community Life 75
  • 6 - Patterns of Communication 104
  • 7 - Academic Careers 131
  • 8 - The Wider Context 159
  • 9 - Implications for Theory and Practice 181
  • Appendix- Data for the Initial Study 208
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 236
  • The Society for Research into Higher Education 239
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