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Geography’s Emerging Cross-Disciplinary Links: Process, Causes, Outcomes and Challenges

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In Australian universities the discipline of Geography has been the pace-setter in forging cross-disciplinary links to create multidisciplinary departments and schools, well ahead of other disciplines in humanities, social sciences and sciences, and also to a greater extent than in comparable overseas university systems.

Details on all cross-disciplinary links and on immediate outcomes have been obtained by surveys of all heads of departments/schools with undergraduate Geography programs. These programs have traced their own distinctive trajectories, with ramifying links to cognate fields of enquiry, achieved through mergers, transfers, internal initiatives and, more recently, faculty-wide restructuring to create supradisciplinary schools.

Geography’s ‘exceptionalism’ has proved short-lived. Disciplinary flux is now extending more widely within Australian universities, driven by a variety of internal and external forces, including: intellectual questioning and new ways of constituting knowledge; technological change and the information revolution; the growth of instrumentalism and credentialism, and managerialism and entre-preneurial imperatives; reinforced by a powerful budgetary squeeze.

Geographers are proving highly adaptive in pursuit of cross-disciplinary connections, offering analytical tools and selected disciplinary insights useful to non-geographers. However, this may be at cost to undergraduate programs focussing on Geography’s intellectual core. Whereas formerly Geography had high reproductive capacity but low instrumental value it may now be in a phase of enhanced utility but perilously low reproductive capacity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of Queensland, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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