For more than a decade ‘inter’- and ‘transdisciplinarity’ have operated as buzzwords in the abundant debates on the changing nature of knowledge, science, society, and their mutual relations. Both terms call up currently highly invested notions in today’s global knowledge economies such as dynamics, mobility, fluidity, flexibility, excellence, connectivity, and adaptiveness. Contrary to these phenomena, inter- and transdisciplinarity also figure as prominent emblems of knowledge projects that understand themselves as critical, transformative, and transgressive of modern science, knowledge, and the order of academic disciplines. Indeed, one could argue that it is especially Women’s and Gender Studies that most strongly appreciate inter- and transdisciplinarity in the academic universe.
Inter- and transdisciplinarity thus seem to be able to both fit into models of neoliberal market- and management-oriented reforms of Higher Education and at the same time figure as foundation of the radical and transformative potential of Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies or Postcolonial Studies. Hence, one could indeed argue that inter- and transdisciplinarity function like magical signs, that is, as empty signifiers meaning whatever their users want them to mean.
Taking this rather inconsistent positioning and claiming of inter- and transdisciplinarity in and for both neoliberal reforms of Higher Education and transformative knowledge endeavours as a starting point, this paper discusses some of the theoretical, methodological, and institutional problems that arise from this at least incoherent if not paradoxical situation. The aim is neither to provide definitions of inter- or transdisciplinarity nor an inter- or transdisciplinary methodology. It is rather a plea that we first need to chart the intricate terrain of the politics of interdisciplinarity before we will be able to develop a transformative inter- or transdisciplinary methodology in/for Gender Studies.