Entitled, "Interdisciplinarity in Theology and Religion: How to Tie Knots that Will Hold," the conference will look at "what interdisciplinarity has entailed, what it means in current research, and what directions it may take in the future." It will be "of particular relevance and interest to postgraduates working on the cutting edge of theology and religious studies." Cutting edge? Why, that's me! Rev. Prof. Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, will give a keynote entitled "Knots and Nots: Interdisciplinarity, Good and Bad"; there will be one workshop on "Collaborative Interdisciplinarity" by Prof. Douglas Davies, Durham University, and one by a representative of Intute: Arts and Humanities at Oxford, on the electronic dimensions of research; there will be papers presented on current interdisciplinary research by postgrad students; and an informal poster competition which aims to "hone skills in alternative presentation methods."
The call for postgrad research papers suggests some broad themes which "seem to generally benefit from, if not absolutely require, an interdisciplinary approach":
- "Truth & Interpretation
- "Tradition and the Future
- "History and Eternity
My research questions (how is truth conceptualised in the UK emerging church milieu and what are the implications of such understandings of truth?) require me to float around in the sociology of religion, philosophy, theology, ethics, and politics; and I've blogged before about the difficulties I've had traversing a dialogue between sociology of religion and post-Enlightenment philosophical thought, particularly regarding sociology after the death of sociology and the problems of representational writing. In my Introduction I have a section where I muse on the possibility of understanding my thesis as an i/con, so I might work that up into a paper.
On the one hand, my thesis may be something of an icon: perhaps not in the sense of pointing outside of itself to an external reality that is the UK emerging church milieu (although this may be the case, we cannot know; such is the nature of undecidability), but in the sense in which Paul Ricoeur notes that the meaning of a text always points beyond itself – "not behind the text [to a reality beneath it] but in front of it" to a different mode of living, to a "possible world" of existing otherwise (Ricoeur 1976:87), of having been transformed.
Simultaneously, however, my research may be something of a con: due to the inherent difficulties in representing phenomenon after the critique of representationalism, it may not represent the social, philosophical, theological, or political realities of the milieu at all.
Further than this, the undecidable nature of my research’s location leads me to articulate it as an "i/con," existing on the Derridean slash of undecidability that is a recurring theme throughout the thesis. My depictions of the UK emerging church milieu should not be taken too seriously; after all, this thesis might just be a con.
But what does the troublesome interdisciplinary relationship between the sociology of religion and contemporary philosophy's critique of the ideology of representationalism mean for research? For starters, the criteria for the validity of a doctoral thesis are destabilized, not least the requirement that the research undertaken and presented be an accurate reflection of the subjects under study. What does "research as i/con" do to the research process? I might steal from the conference title to argue that, the "knots" do not hold.