“Conflict, though often unsettling, is a natural part of collective human experience. It can leave participants ill at ease, so it is often avoided and suppressed. Yet conflict, when well-managed, breathes life and energy into relationships and can cause individuals to be more innovative and productive. Conflict is present within our schools whether we like it or not. Educators must find ways to legitimize critique and controversy within organizational life”. 1

Nelly Richards writing on Judith Butler argues that the most generative aspect of information exchange is friction. 2 Friction is generated when two opposing perspectives come into contact. Conflict in this context, may be understood as the generative process of friction production and discourse alteration. On the one hand, an absence of friction can be read as a failure of new knowledge production. Tracing a history of punk or feminism, their counter-hegemonic stances were often judged precisely by the quantity of friction they produced. An absence of friction in this regard, is indicative of a lack of innovative thinking at best or conservatism at worst.

On the other hand, friction that is left to turn into unresolved conflict may be seen as indicative of a failure of pedagogy to assimilate and grow from these contrasts. According to Mukhtar, Islam and Siengthai’s study, the reputation of many university institutions in Pakistan in the public eye are based on their capacity for conflict resolution and subsequent adaptation. 3 These two aspects allow us to summarise that conflict ought to be understood as sites of friction that deserve deeper attention and the ability to turn this into a generative exchange is the marker of successful pedagogy.

Given this, transdisciplinary education which is particularly prone to conflict due to the necessary collapsing of discipline boundaries and the translation of knowledges between disciplinary specific languages offers a highly productive site for the generation of friction that requires a robust means of conflict resolution. To make this generative, it is necessary to understand where the sites of friction production are taking place.

Friction produced between educators and students may highlight the failure of educators to account for the desired knowledges and discourses by the students.4

Conflict resolution in this scenario may be seen as an informative discussion between the two parties and the diversification of curricula for example.

Friction within the student body is often indicative of diversity in worldviews and may be turned into a generative experience by considering the different locales that form students’ epistemologies and working through their plural, situated knowledges through group work. Friction arising between educators similarly highlights different pedagogical perspectives and may be used to generate diverse faculties that balance contrasting epistemologies and pedagogical ambitions through care-full discussions.

As opposed to seeking to avoid conflict in transdisciplinary education, it is necessary, to repurpose Donna Haraway, to stay with the conflict. Treating its friction as potential for pedagogical innovation and conflict resolution and an opportunity for the betterment of interpersonal relations.

Footnotes and references
  1. Uline, Cynthia & Tschannen-Moran, Megan & Perez, Lynne. (2003). Constructive Conflict: How Controversy Can Contribute to School Improvement. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education. 105. 782-816. 10.1177/016146810310500505.[]
  2. “Desajustar el marco del feminismo: una lectura de Judith Butler desde el Sur,” in Representations 158 (Spring 2022): “Proximities: Reading with Judith Butler”.[]
  3. Mukhtar, Uzma, Zohurul Islam and Sununta Siengthai. “Conflicts in higher education and perceived quality of education: empirical evidence from Pakistan” in Research in Higher Education Journal, []
  4. Özgan, Habib. “The usage of domination strategies in conflicts between the teachers and students: A case study”, in Educational Research and Reviews, vol. 11(4), 2016, 4.[]