I was first introduced to interdisciplinary studies and trans-concepts as a student in literature and film while at university. My programme had a particularly good focus on learning about the various intersections of a topic while conceptualising the layout of the humanities programmes at the university.
I always celebrated the ability to step into not one subject, but a layered, and multifaceted domain of various intersecting concepts. When I entered social work school, I wanted to keep to this practice of broadening my scope beyond the platonic definitions and canonical understanding of the discourse.
With this aim, ‘intersectionality‘ became a cornerstone of my foundation years in social work education. I recommend this approach to anyone in a generalist programme or anyone who is interested in applying their degrees to more than one job type of skill set or practice. I have always believed definitions themselves are unstable, and literary theory suggests the system of signification our very language ruptures and repairs itself, reconfiguring meaning when its suits the conversation, intentional or inferred meaning, and its translation into words.
This is why I cross-pollinated my understanding of language, and how words work to social work ‘speak’. This helix-like structure I am referring to which allows me to access meaning in the world of social work, interventions, and its practice, also provides me with ample space to do so without restricting or limiting my approach because I avoid being boxed into a structure. With this said, I open up much needed space for something academics call trans-concepts.
All interpretation and collective knowledge, any discourse out there has liminal spaces and nodes which signal to readers and learners how to proceeded with accessing meaning and draw an understanding from the body of knowledge something that can be applied beyond social work itself or even the humanities.
Thus, every time I go about researching and reading up on a technique, I am also brushing up on other pertinent and related points of enquiry. I like to think of this as multitasking for learners, with an added component of freedom, which allows learners to travel beyond the gates of their discourse. This is crucial more than ever in social work.
We are living in a greater world of interdependence, with transnational Implications to our research. We cannot box ourselves into an academic minefield, which just suits our local and immediate interests. The time has home to open the academic borers to allied field and disciplines willing to take on the work too.
In a world of greater interdependence, being aware of the allied fields surrounding to or adjacent to our niches is even more important. Social work, psychology and medicine – none of these disciplines work in isolation in practice so why do researchers and academics forget about incorporating more transconceptual work to their research.
The benefits are clear. Aside from a broader, and more applicable, accessible, and tested base to practice our research, the sheer increase in volume in ideas cannot be ignored.
So, transconceptual frameworks are truly a more dynamic and integrated way of approaching not only a field of study, but also its application, research, and practice in the field. I truly recommend putting my advice here into practice. Go ahead and begin expanding your field of vision. Learn why you put up the blinders in some respects, and focus in on other things. Beginning to identify why things are important to you, is the first step in debunking what doesn’t work for anyone, and ideas to truly focus on to drive education further.
This means: identifying commonalities in ideas; linkages; weak points in access to meaning; unstable and definitions in need of further clarification and revision; and, intersections with various fields and point of entry into the chosen discourse under enquiry. These are just a few ways to re imagining your way of tackling learning in a more dynamic world.
Maxwell Guttman teaches social work at Fordham University. He is also a mental health correspondent for Psychreg where he shares his insights on recovery and healing based from his lived experience of schizophrenia – a journey which started as an undergraduate student at Binghamton University. His diagnosis of schizophrenia wasn’t formally recognised until he was admitted to the state hospital in upstate New York. On his spare time, Max blogs on self-management at Mental Health Affairs. You can connect with Max on Twitter @maxwellguttman
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