The Trend Towards Transdisciplinarity: A Critical Evaluation of an Ambivalent Practice in Qualitative Urban Studies

Monika Streule


In this article I draw on a theoretical-methodological discussion of urban studies in order to focus on the role transdisciplinarity plays in it. Beginning with a brief review of the difficulties that have plagued empirical urban studies over the years and the main epistemological debates concerning these studies, I then discuss the question of what kind of knowledge can be produced by transdisciplinary studies of the urban, or more precisely: How can transdisciplinarity be productively introduced in a critical research agenda to become a fruitful strategy for urban studies? I emphasize the historical empirical and rather intuitive transdisciplinary imprint of west-European urban studies. I argue that the main theoretical and methodological understanding for contemporary transdisciplinary urban studies is based particularly on the results of the postmodern and the poststructuralist turns which lead scholars to a deeper engagement with scientific reflexivity, ethnography, and the social production of space. Hence, I underline the importance of this critical understanding of such a methodological and theoretical framework of urban studies and conclude that this approach is key for the structural and thematic commitment to the urban today. It is an essential requirement to translate transdisciplinarity into an explicit empirical praxis. The wide range of contemporary transdisciplinary approaches is finally schematically outlined by three main tendencies that are discussed to illustrate their possibilities and limitations for urban studies.



urban studies; transdisciplinarity; Henri Lefebvre; urban anthropology; architecture; artistic research; ethnography; grounded-theory-methodology; reflexivity; mapping; triangulation

Copyright (c) 2013 Monika Streule

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