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Understanding Boundary Work through Discourse Theory: Inter/disciplines and Interdisciplinarity
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research . Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1912-5538
2010 (English)In: Science Studies, ISSN 0786-3012, Vol. 23, no 2, 5-19 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Interdisciplinarity is usually described as different from disciplinarity: a discipline is said to generate distinct boundaries, separating it from the undisciplined, while interdisciplinarity connotes the crossing of such boundaries. Less attention is paid to how boundary crossing itself creates new boundaries. This article asks how boundary work can be understood in theory and what this understanding means to academic debate on interdisciplinarity. From this perspective, there is reason to talk of interdisciplines conducting boundary work distinguishable by the fundamental logic guiding boundary creation. In this new approach, disciplinary logic distinguishes itself by promoting the monopolization of knowledge, whereas interdisciplinary logic fundamentally promotes plurality. As opposed to much use of the term “interdisciplinarity”, this version would be conceptually meaningful in relation to “disciplinarity”. Though boundary work following an anti-boundary logic might seem contradictory, this is not necessarily so: what is guarded in an interdiscipline could well be the possibility of permeability.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 23, no 2, 5-19 p.
Keyword [en]
boundary work; discourse; discipline; interdiscipline; interdisciplinarity
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-62778OAI: diva2:374383
Swedish Research Council Formas, 1700
Available from: 2010-12-03 Created: 2010-12-03 Last updated: 2016-05-04
In thesis
1. Historical responsibility: Assessing the past in international climate negotiations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Historical responsibility: Assessing the past in international climate negotiations
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Assessments of the past are essential to the struggle over the right to define the normative position of history under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Despite this importance, attempts to analyze the use of history in this context are rare. This thesis aims to investigate how assessments of the past are used in UNFCCC negotiations on responsibilities to act, focusing on negotiations on historical responsibilities. The research questions concern how discourse on historical responsibility: 1) can be structured, 2) is influenced by UNFCCC negotiating practice, 3) has been structured in the UNFCCC, and 4) has enabled agreement despite considerable conflict. Official UNFCCC documentation between 1991 and 2011 was studied using discourse analysis. This study suggests: first, the UNFCCC discourse on historical responsibility conveys two main assessments—a proportional and a conceptual one—of how the past could be used to differentiate responsibilities to act. Second, the strong consensus focus necessitates rationales underlying an “agreeable history” that is neither too flexible, allowing arbitrariness, nor too rigid, reducing Parties’ likelihood of ratifying. Third, as the past evolves, new situations challenge discourse that potentially engages policy makers with a need to rearticulate history. Fourth, if the context changes, so may the importance ascribed to particular assessments of the past. If the stakes increase over time, even more effort is required to reach agreement, which simultaneously becomes more important in solving problems of common concern. Fifth, power seems difficult to circumvent, even by means of cleverly designed negotiating practice. If so, multilateral environmental negotiations could increase the legitimacy of outcomes among Parties in two principal ways: first, by identifying the core conflict that drives negotiations and, second, by evaluating how multilateral environmental negotiations handle conflict. Obscuring or ignoring conflict will likely only reduce the legitimacy of the negotiations. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2013. 71 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 569
Historical responsibility; UNFCCC negotiations; discourse
National Category
Social Sciences Humanities
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-86920 (URN)978-­91-­7519-­712-­8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-02-15, K1, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Linköpings universitet, Norrköping, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-01-29 Created: 2013-01-07 Last updated: 2015-09-22Bibliographically approved

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Friman, Mathias
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