All pedagogical activity takes place within space, some physical institutions, some are liminal observations and others are digital environments, however the locale directly informs the type of education experience created. Transdisciplinary education, in its effort to dismantle disciplinary boundaries, must also dismantle the boundaries that often separate pedagogical environments and the spaces they rest within. These boundaries are physical, sociocultural, and almost always perspectival; however, their porosity needs to be demonstrated and cultivated before we can grow environments for transdisciplinary methodology.
Whilst the classroom, much like the white cube, often holds the façade of an atemporal space, almost heterotopic in its separation from place and time, it cannot be considered neutral. Not only do educators and students alike arrive from and leave to locales rooted in material and sociocultural specificity, but, as Foucault notes, the epistemology that governs pedagogical space, itself has a history rooted in both time and space.1 The inclusion and exclusion of knowledges and peoples from discourses have a spatial dimension that can be seen to this day and has recently been highlighted by student movements to decolonise the university. Writers including Dalia Gebrial, Nelson Maldonado Torres, Kolar Aparna, and Oliver Kramsch have written extensively on the ways that the pseudo-neutrality of the classroom masks the specificity of its pedagogy and epistemology.2
To counter this masking, Aparna and Kramsch argue for ‘resituating knowledge-exchange along cross-border personalities’.3They propose a radical resituating of knowledge within space and a recognition of the specificities of places in which knowledge is exchanged. This renders the transdisciplinary educator as having a responsibility to both the situatedness of their own knowledges and the locales of those with whom they are engaging in knowledge exchange. Transdisciplinary education therefore, in deconstructing the legibility of discipline specificity, may be seen as also facilitating an exchange and inquiry into the epistemologies of different spaces and the knowledges produced within them.
By historicising educational spaces, the friction often encountered between students’ worldviews and those of the university as an institution may be positioned as constructive and critical. As has been demonstrated through studies into the demographics of disciplines, the social codes and dominate epistemologies that govern these knowledges are often specific. Following Beatriz Colomina’s seminal Sexuality and Space, these epistemologies are also intrinsically spatial problems related to gender, class, and race.4 Transdisciplinary education must work around not only knowledge specificity, but the friction that is produced in generating knowledges between individuals with different worldviews formed in distinct spaces.
Small-scale transdisciplinary education offers the possibility of plural situated knowledges and a critique of the governance of space that is made evident through the friction produced when they are brought together. To facilitate this exchange however, it is necessary to problematise the spaces in which pedagogy and knowledge is formulated and transmitted.
- Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias”, Architecture/Movement/ Continuité, 1984 (trans. Jay Miskowiec).
- Bhrambra, Gurminder K., Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu (eds). Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press, 2018.
- Aparna, Kolar and Oliver Kramsch. “Asylum University” in Bhrambra, Gurminder K., Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu (eds). Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press, 2018, 93-108.
- Colomina, Beatriz. Sexuality and Space. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 4th ed. 1996.