Accepted Paper:

Meeting of the minds. Or: on building walls instead of bridges  


Anna-Lena Berscheid (University of Paderborn)

Paper short abstract:

Interdisciplinary meetings do not always turn out successfully. In this contribution, I try to make sense of why and how such meetings sometimes lead to establish new boundaries between disciplines instead of integrate knowledge. Furthermore, I seek to reflect about possible STS-interventions.

Paper long abstract:

According to, a meeting is "the act of coming together", possibly leading to the formation of a "union". However, the term also refers to a "hostile encounter". Hence, it seems that the substantial outcome of a (interdisciplinary) meeting depends on its participants' attitudes and expectations as well as their willingness for and the manner of interaction with the others.

In this contribution, I want to conceptualize interdisciplinary meetings not only in a spatial sense or as "formal discussions" (see, I also want to think about meetings as encounters where different "thought styles" (Fleck 1980 [1935]) and disciplinary traditions come (and sometimes even clash) together. Drawing on material collected via participant observation within an explicitly interdisciplinary graduate school, I want to especially make sense of those moments in meetings when frictions arise. How and why do participants draw (new) boundaries or build even 'enemy camps'? To that end, I want to draw on the analytical concepts of boundary work and the ambivalence of scientists (e.g. Gieryn 1983; 1995), epistemic living spaces (Felt 2012) and othering (e. g. Brons 2015). As most literature on interdisciplinarity focuses on either conceptual questions or stories of success, I consider it fruitful to also focus on those moments where interdisciplinary exchange - often thought of as the 'holy grail' in e.g. sustainability research - turns out to be hard work. Finally, I also want to 'use' the panel to discuss possible ways of (in-situ) intervention for us as STS-researchers.

Panel C11
Scientific meetings across disciplinary boundaries