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Mesa M

Mesa M

Lawwrence J. McCrank

M. Interdisciplinarity under debate

It is difficult to conceptualize, package, and present an

interdisciplinary program in academic curricula and universities because

of the traditional classification of the disciplines. Yet, History is

itself interdisciplinary, so much so that it has defied a strict

classification as a Social Science or a Humanity in the organization of

knowledge in libraries and in university academics. And within History,

regardless of its assigned home, lies a full array of methodological

specializations and theoretical positions within the spectra of

quantified-qualified research, nicro- and macro-focii from local history

to global/world history, textual-aural-visual, documetary or archival and

records-based research and literary text and artistic/cultural object

oriented studies, and philosophical positions of every kind, which makes

History known to everyone and identifiable as a coherent discipline to

none.

In the specialization of classification within Library Science,

in the major systems such as BLISS, DDC/Sears descriptors and their

international counterparts, and LCCS/LSCH History has been treated both

as (1) a class onto itself (in DDC as a synthetic world overview and

summary at the end of the decimal classification scheme; and in LCCS as

an engulfing Social Science which acts as a theoretical rather than

applied field of study; and (2) as a subset of all other disciplines, for

background in each. It is therefore, both fragmented and unifying

simultaneously. The judgement call for proper placement in either scheme

is complex and sometimes tedious, which often defies pure rationality.

The reason often given for this predicament is that History

is interdisciplinary, which is to beg the question of History as a

discipline itself, and critics also question whether it has discipline

within the discipline because historians themselves have difficulty in

defining the field, its methodology, basic assumptions, mission and

goals, and membership. Any attack upon interdisciplinarity seems like an

assault on History. One counter-ploy is to attempt multi-disciplinarity,

or to develop History expertise with an equal mastery in a cognate field.

A third alternative has emerged in the last decade, namely the

unidiscipline, which attempts to highlight the synthetic, symbiotic, and

global nature of History. Moreover, recent trends in some of the

sciences, as in Information Science, have justified the formation of new

hybrid disciplines, not as specializations or intra-disciplines, and

something more unique than inter-disciplinarity, but still less

comprehensive than unidisciplinarity, when in 3-dimensional thinking more

than two fields are interfaced by scholarship existing at the interstices

of multiple disciplines. Information Science itself has been described as

an intersticial science.

Does such an approach to the classification, description,

and positioning of History have any appeal to historians? As scholarship

in the next millenium becomes ever more complex, intensive, and

interactive, does it make sense in a multi-dimensional framework to see

History as intersticial? And if so, how might historians who ascribe to

such a view begin to redescribe History, redefine its scope and

parameters, purpose, and character? Or does such an approach introduce

even more ambiguity to the classification and description problem History

has always faced as a metaform rather than a concrete, easily

identifiable discipline?