Major Research Project

Logics and principles for designing emergent transdisciplinary research processes

Theme(s):
Project Leader(s): Dr John van Breda, Prof Mark Swilling

Dealing with informality and social fluidity in Transdisciplinary Research (TDR) processes

Transdisciplinarity (TD) is not a new science per se, but rather a new methodology for doing science with society. A particular challenge in doing science with society is the engagement with non-academic social actors to enable joint problem formulation, analysis and transformation. How this is done practically differs from context to context – given the deep structural, educational and institutional asymmetries between the countries / societies of the developed North vs. the developing South.

In this context, the challenge is how to engage with people more directly in their informal social networks and settings – rather than via their representatives who have been institutionally mandated to speak on their behalf in any decision-making processes on the future. One such new approach that has emerged from a case study of the Enkanini informal settlement in Stellenbosch (South Africa), can be called the emergent transdisciplinary design research (ETDR) approach.  This case study demonstrated what methodological innovation can in fact come out of conducting TDR with communities in social environments with no formalised decision-making structures, practices and institutions.