Navigating interdisciplinarity: negotiating discipline, embodiment, and materiality on a field methods training course


  • Rebecca Rotter University of Edinburgh
  • Laura Jeffery
  • Luke Heslop



This article elucidates some of the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration in teaching, drawing on our participant observation as both instructors of anthropological methods and honorary students of marine ecology and geomorphology methods on a research training field course. We argue that interdisciplinary methods training offers educators opportunities for self-reflexivity, recognition of the taken-for-granted aspects of our knowledge, and improved communication of the value of our work to others. However, we also show how decisions about course structure can reinforce disciplinary boundaries, limiting inter-epistemic knowledge production; how one epistemological approach may overshadow others, hindering interdisciplinary learning; and how methods training involves tacit and embodied knowledge and mastery of material methods, requiring repetition and experimentation. We offer insights into how we as educators can improve our communication of the value of anthropology and its methods. First, instructors in any discipline should develop an awareness of how their tacit knowledge affects the pedagogical process. Second, instead of enskilling instructors to teach a variety of methods, it may be more beneficial for instructors to teach their own areas of expertise, in dialogue and collaboration with other disciplines. Third, interdisciplinary courses must be carefully planned to allow equal participation of different disciplines, so that anthropology is understood on its own terms and embedded in the course from the outset.