Open Thinking

By Professor David Crouch
University of Derby

The notion that we are in a post-disciplinary world has enjoyed an increasing hearing in recent years. It matters for leisure studies because it both offers opportunities and also enormous complexity. In ways, as a sub-discipline [an unappealing terms- perhaps ‘multi-discipline[d] is apposite], leisure studies has long drawn upon a clutch of disciplinary perspectives and approaches, and increasingly done so, most notably in its early days, sociology, but now across geographies, psychology and much more.

Perhaps nowhere more than in tourism, the notion of the ‘post’ applied here is mixed, perhaps muddled, with the upstart ‘field’ of mobilities. Indeed, in a collection of papers in Tourism Recreation Research this is regarded as the way forward for our studies (Tribe 2005, subsequently Tourism and Philosophy, a book edited by Tribe 2009). There are numerous complexities in this reaching for such intelligence-underpinning, as often ‘theory’, the sometimes dreaded ‘ideas’ are rapidly summarised in papers submitted to journals in order to get on with, for example, tidy ‘case studies’; explaining the use of method more than methodology. I have written about my concern for the highly rated ‘field’ of mobilities, that the late [and genuinely great] John Urry argued it is as important to making sense of the social world as any existing component of sociology (Urry 2007). My contesting this amounts to a ‘quieten down’ to how mobilities [that always yields a typo error on our computers, at least four times in this paragraph!]  emerged, basically in a romance of the world of planes, vacations, and of course the so-called digital world [sic]. Could mobilities be of [at least] equal importance to matters of gender, ethnicity….? And some suggest refitting tourism in its name.

Alongside, rather than against this, scholars across disciplines are increasingly finding that they are reading and hearing, seeing literature they share with each other. There is no a new journal called geo-humanities. Yes, across or between different disciplines there is an increasing exchange and sharing of ideas, theoretical and methodological approaches. But does this inculcate desire to merge our disciplines so they each become no longer, into some kind of impossible and unbearable soup? In my book Flirting with Space: journeys and creativity [quick mention- recently Routledge issued a paperback version, bringing the cost down to about £35], not a perfect book, but I work amongst cultural and other human geographies, social anthropology, performance studies, some sociology, visual culture and art theory,,,.

With Marijn Nuiwenhuis (Warwick) I have just submitted a welcomed manuscript for the book ‘The Question of Space: interrogating the spatial turn between disciplines’. The line-up of a dozen or so contributors leans across many disciplines: sociology, feminist studies and geographies; anthropology, philosophy, literature, cultural studies, international relations, digital science, philosophy and humanities. The essence of the approaches and the writing is to encourage debate amongst disciplines; recognising that each discipline continues to have its distinctive background [and baggage], insights, ways of thinking, methodologies and so on. This distinctiveness remains as significant as ever; but the change, like the new journal Geohumanities, is to talk together, not to become some uber-discipline, or soup. Similar and sometimes the same authors are quoted, referred to, discussed. Through different individual scholars looking over each others’ reading material, attending open conferences and so on, individuals in different disciplines can widen the openness of more colleagues in the same fields. We are reading overlapping material. The approach of mutual engagement mutually enriches. This is not looking back, or more than trying to hold on to existing richness, but to progress, to grow.

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