Accepted Paper:

Interdisciplinarity as experience of flexibility and rigor  

Author:

Françoise Lafaye (ENTPE UMR CNRS EVS)

Paper short abstract:

Interdisciplinarity deeply modifies the way you do Anthropology. Flexibility is needed in the approach – finding the right issue takes time while the method requires constant adjustment – and rigor in the interpretation: interdisciplinarity compels you to summon up a good knowledge of the discipline

Paper long abstract:

Leaning on an international research: Sustainable Manufacturing (SusManuf), funded by The G8 Research Councils Initiative, we propose to discuss how working with 5 teams of chemical researchers from France, USA and Japan compelled us to rethink how to do Anthropology. Flexibility is needed in the approach - choosing the right issue to work on takes time and many tries while the method requires constant adjustment. And rigor is needeed in the interpretation as interdisciplinarity compels you to summon up a good knowledge of the discipline.

Chemical researchers asked for a social researcher at the beginning of the project. But they had a preconceived idea of what a social anthropologist could do: they expected him or her to analyze the acceptance by consumers and producers of the new material they were designing. Using their own question on acceptance, and after explaining to them what Anthropology is about, we used the characteristics of their hybrid material (nanotechnology with polymer) and the way they described this material (as environmentally-friendly) to build the anthropological part of the project. It deals partly with controversies about nanotechnology, and involves questionning anti-nanotechnology activists; and partly with innovation and environmental concerns, and involves questionning chemical managers. During the project, chemical researchers were alternatively colleagues and informants, and we had to find and imagine an adequate approach while remaining within the limits of our discipline.

Panel P112
Interdisciplinary research and nature-society interactions