Connecting the Dots


Below, Lambros Malafouris answers our final question.

Judging from the experience I have gathered so far working in various cross-disciplinary projects, I have to say that there is no such thing as an "appropriate" or "inappropriate" approach; there is only what we may call "soft" and "hard" cross-disciplinary research. The former type is quite common; I would say even fashionable in many fields and countries, yet of little value. It simply means, in most cases, that you combine or add perspectives in order to study a phenomenon or answer a certain question. At best this will result in a more nuanced description of the phenomenon or problem. But little has changed in terms of the original presuppositions, and as a result only rarely something really new has emerged out of this. This sort of "soft" and quite often "naïve" cross-disciplinarity works best when experimental methods can be combined or applied but is of limited value when used from a more broad and theoretical perspective. The latter demands substantial expertise and in depth knowledge of the problem from a variety of angles. It demands, in other words, that all researchers, if a team project is involved, or a single researcher by herself acquire expertise and knowledge sufficient to enable her to crisscross epistemic cultures, practices, vocabularies, and ways of thinking. The risk here is higher but it is a risk worth taken for it is only in this way that true breakthroughs may come. "Cross-disciplinarity" is what enables us not only to imagine the hidden pattern behind the dots but also to join the dots together.

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