Transdisciplinary education is not built for efficiency or speed. With collaboration at its core, it is a cumbersome affair, if not at times unwieldy. Rather than being a hindrance, it is an affordance, a means of engaging wholly in complexity. To borrow from the Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers:
It is here that the word ‘slow’, as used in the slow movements, is adequate. Speed demands and creates an insensitivity to everything that might slow things down: the frictions, the rubbing, the hesitations that make us feel we are not alone in the world. Slowing down means becoming capable of learning again, becoming acquainted with things again, reweaving the bounds of interdependency. 1
Friction is inevitable when people care, and matters of concern are often contentious and thorny. Conflict and the capacity to carefully move within and through it is part and parcel of collaboration. Streamlining and smoothness are the antitheses of transdisciplinary learning. Here, immersion in the messiness is the hallmark of transdisciplinary education. While murky when you are in the midst of working together, it is the fertile humus from which new knowledge and perspectives grow.
One of the challenges of transdisciplinary education is to avoid the rush to quick solutions, snap results, bottom lines and project-oriented thinking. Slowness means engaging in processes over products, taking the time to follow what at first sight might be tangents, impossible roads and long and winding curves. Slowing down gives time for what Donna Haraway calls tentacular thinking that weaves paths and consequences but not determinisms. 2 This does not mean that there are no results. But quick resolutions have the effect of glossing over potential connections or entanglements. While slowness is a temporality that gives space for friction and knotting, it also creates time for idleness and play. In the pace of slowness, the terms and conditions of the question itself can be questioned. There is space to be confused, openly speculate, engage in fictioning and stretch the imagination.
- Stengers, Isabelle, and Stephen Muecke (trans). Another Science Is Possible: A Manifesto for Slow Science. (p. 70).Cambridge: Polity. (2018).
- Haraway, Donna, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene – Journal #75 September 2016 – e-Flux.” e. Accessed September 2, 2022. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67125/tentacular-thinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/.