Interdisciplinary Study Gets New Push from Mellon Foundation

As Roland Barthes pointed out in one of his richly dense meditations, interdisciplinarity in research cannot be brought about by “the simple confrontation of specialist branches of knowledge,” but can be achieved only when the “solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down,” and a new epistemological object is created with its own language.

Now the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given a $672,000 grant to fund an ambitious project at the University of Minnesota Press and the university’s Institute for Advanced Study to attempt to secure precisely that mutation in the modes of creating knowledge. To be called “Quadrant,” the project is intended to promote interdisciplinary research and publications by bringing “scholars in the humanities and the social sciences into dialogue with those in the sciences and professional schools,” according to a news release by the University of Minnesota Press.

“This program offers exciting new possibilities for the production and dissemination of research which crosses ordinary disciplinary and institutional boundaries. We are pleased to be partners in what promises to be an innovative and dynamic interaction,” said historian Ann Waltner, director of the Institute for Advanced Study.

The Quadrant program will have four groups focusing on design and architecture, environmental sustainability, global cultures, and health and society. The collaborative research is expected to yield at least two books each year for each group, starting from spring 2009, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in its daily report of October 31, 2007.

This latest grant is in line with the Mellon Foundation’s multiyear, multipronged effort  to promote publication in “underserved” areas of scholarship as well as in new modes of communication. Previously this effort included funding of the Gutenberg-e Prize project of the AHA, which joined hands with Columbia University Press to publish e-books based on history dissertations of exceptional quality.

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