New Knowledge Making in the Humanities: Reflective, Troublesome and Mobile Knowledge
Can Humanities claim epistemological distinctiveness? And can we claim value for any such distinctiveness? I propose that the answer is yes to both questions if we look to distinguish the Humanities by processes rather than research products: by our meaning-making rather than knowledge bases. Some perhaps speculative and certainly dialogic propositions will be offered about the nature of those processes: appropriately so in that this paper will argue that Humanities processes are speculative and dialogic. Also, and distinctively, to involve both critical reflection and iterative and interactive processes which may be modelled as producing 'fluid' or 'encountered' knowledge. As a Classicist teaching for the Cambridge University English Finals Tragedy paper, I will use examples of my students' meaning making - their writing - to examine a challenging new idea about students being at the heart of radical knowledge production. 'Troublesome Knowledge', it has been proposed, is what result when students operating without their discipline's 'threshold concepts' make their own, extra-disciplinary sense of material that engages them closely.(I will extend this model to consider what in the Humanities could be called 'threshold concepts' and what the effect on the student and on the discipline community would be of students being allowed to operate without them.) And finally I will consider Ron Barnett's proposition that we in the Humanities underestimate our unique position as the domain that teaches how to live with the results of, as well as produces, 'supercomplex' explanatory models.
Keywords: Transformatory knowledge, Threshold concepts, Writing in the disciplines, Interdisciplinary epistemology, Performative identity, Fluid knowledge
Dr Jan Parker
Chair, Humanities Higher Education Research Group, Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, UK Open University and Classics Faculty, University of Cambridge