From Autumn 2016 forward, Heathwood will be actively pursuing the development of its Critical Transdisciplinary Research Program (CTRP). This program emphasizes the crossing of academic boundaries by promoting and supporting interdisciplinary and methodologically innovative scholarship.

Before submitting work to Heathwood, authors should familiarize themselves with this document, as well as Heathwood’s vision of methodological innovation.

Critical Cross-disciplinary Research

The primary aim of Heathwood is to investigate the roots of social, economic, and environmental crises. We aim to bring varieties of interdisciplinary and methodologically innovative research together to participate in collectively generating transdisciplinary theories and outcomes. Through this process of collective innovation, Heathwood seeks to assist with the development of concrete policy alternatives that promote social justice and that contribute to progressive visions throughout society.

In order to address the roots of social, economic and environmental crises, we need to bring people together to build more complex perspectives on the problems we face as well as their potential solutions. Medical science alone will not overcome pandemics, and climate science alone will not overcome climate change. Psychology alone will not overcome mental illness, and social theory alone with not overcome social problems. Advancements in critical research and understanding are forged through collaboration. We must look at the many issues we face today in their full complexity and, in turn, offer progressive and complex solutions.

To be thorough, such a project calls for the questioning of appearances and commonsense understandings. To be grounded, it requires the conviction and direction that only a normative foundation can support. That is why Heathwood promotes the critical practice of interdisciplinary research.

A guide to cross-disciplinary research, which can serve to assist potential contributors, can be found here. In this article Art Dewulf , Greet François, Claudia Pahl-Wost and Tharsi Taillieu outline “A Framing Approach to Cross-disciplinary Research Collaboration” (2007).

Critical Transdisciplinary Research Program (CTRP)

In seeking to establish a thriving environment of cross-disciplinary research activity, Heathwood endeavors to inspire a new perspective on what it means to practice “critical theory” and critical research (broadly defined). In doing so, it emphasizes that individual research be cross-disciplinary and methodologically innovative, creating bridges between philosophy, science, the humanities, and empirical study. In actively organizing new collaborations between academics disciplines, the aim is to further enrich the depth of each discipline while also encouraging transdisciplinary theories, concepts, and innovations.

Heathwood Institute and its current researchers have done much to foster this perspective, and through our Critical Transdisciplinary Research Program (CTRP) we will continue to support collaboration between interested authors for innovative and interdisciplinary research.

Within the modern neoliberal context, supporting interdisciplinary research and transdisciplinary theory is important for preserving and encouraging what is of beyond-instrumental-value in higher education. As Robert Pippin notes, there are fundamentally subversive aspects of working outside of the boundaries of single disciplines. Heathwood seeks to intervene by not only promoting a critical integrative methodological approach, one which is oriented, first, toward the promotion of critical thinking and the critical study of phenomena. Heathwood’s research ambitions seek to revitalize, in practice, examples of academic practice and university learning as a haven for engagement with larger issues of politics, history, philosophy, etc. in a sustained and dedicated way.

Interdisciplinary Research, Transdisciplinary Program

In emphasizing the interdisciplinarity of individual research, the goal of Heathwood as a broader project is to work toward collective transdisciplinary outcomes. What do we mean by this? The design of Heathwood’s research and publication program seeks to achieve this by way of the following:

  • Support critical cross-disciplinary research, which integrates discipline-specific findings at the fore of each area, with a mind toward a broader, integrative and foundational view.
  • Emphasize interdisciplinary research activity as part of a broader transdisciplinary vision.
  • Interdisciplinary research and transdisciplinary research are seen as representative of two levels of practice: individual and collective. The wider transdisciplinary vision of Heathwood should be viewed as rooted in the “efforts conducted by individuals from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem” (for further definition, see here). The transdisciplinary objective is focused primary on a project-wide level of possible future collaboration among researchers and contributors.
  • Heathwood endeavors to promote transdisciplinary theories, concepts and innovations by fostering collaboration among contributors, in effort to advance past publications and cross-disciplinary findings.
  • Individual research papers should be interdisciplinary, but, from the perspective of the wider Heathwood project, the aim is to generate an evolving synthesis which supports transdisciplinary developments.
  • Seek to design, on a wider level, a transdisciplinary program, the interdisciplinary value of individual research (which we organize internationally) is an important if not critical methodological requirement. It is the combination of interdisciplinary research practice and transdisciplinary goals, which defines a large part of CTRP.

CTRP attempts to arrive at more robust ‘theses, concepts, and theoretical/methodological approaches’ by way of integrative applications of science, the humanities, and philosophy to empirical research, actively seeking their dialogue. We strive to find productive sites of concord between these ways of knowing, without reductively ignoring reality’s complexity. We strive to understand how sites of discord relate to broader structures of our understanding, without getting stuck in a narrow process of nay-saying all knowledge claims.

Mission

Heathwood is committed to the promotion of an informed and engaged citizenry; to promote a foundational awareness and understanding of social, cultural, economic and political processes; as well as to fight economic and social injustice, and to protect the diversity of nature and society and the natural systems upon which all life depends.In principle, our mission is three-fold:1) To understand the fundamental human issues that prevent individual and collective harmony and well-being, and that impede social progress as well as the healthy development of society;2) To identify catalysts for change on a fundamental level across the different spheres of society;3) To engage with researchers, policy makers and most importantly the general public in effort to promote critical dialogue as well as active leadership and participation in the manifestation of social change

Research clusters

We will achieve the aims and objectives expressed in our mission statement in several distinct ways, each of which is defined according to the nine overlapping clusters of our research and publishing activity:

1. Social divisions, inequalities and culture, including substantive interests in economy, stratification and systems. This cluster includes our organization’s aim to understand and measure human progress, especially as it entails a multidisciplinary focus on power and disadvantage as well as domination and oppression across a range of social categories including: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, age, caste, (dis)ability, sexuality and citizenship status.

2. Ideology, collectivity and social movements including substantive interests in foundational research of social collectives, systems and policy, as well as methodological interests which straddle  the quantitative and qualitative divide, and balance the poles of subject-object, individual-society, general-particular and consciousness-systems.

3. Ecological disaster, violence and identity including substantive interests in the epistemological foundations of domination and violence, as well as in understanding the fundamental structures and historical processes that have led to a disenfranchised nature, the division between nature and culture, as well as domination and colonialism.

4. Ideology, collectivity and violence including substantive interests in the foundational study of distorted and healthy social collectivities, of the origins of totalitarianism, of the origins of the social, epistemological and psychological structures of authoritarianism, as well as fundamental research into the structures and processes behind the formation and practice of ideology and of systems, with a mind toward a critique of the structure of capitalist society and the role that it plays in the manifestation of violence, oppression, domination, and inequality.

5. Communication, Media and Technology including fundamental critique of media and technology and critical contributions to alternative media studies.

6. Families, relationships and personal life including the study of parents and parenting, childhood, kinship, friendships, and gender, sexuality and inter-generational relations in everyday life, as well as the power society has in shaping the way we organize, associate, interpret and perceive these phenomena.

7. Cultural practices, consumption and sustainability including interests in theories of practice, cultures of production and consumption, interdisciplinary approaches to questions of sustainability and alternative economics, and research into cultural change.

8. Multimedia and other radical innovations concerning the dissemination of research including interests in radical alternative methods for the presentation of theory (especially with regards to making it more accessible, applicable, and relatable to human experience in everyday life), the use of systematic and narrative techniques, as well as the use of multimedia in explaining theory.

9. Methodological innovations focusing on empirically informed theoretical research and innovations in critical theoretical research. The aim is to achieve a holistic, interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the study of social phenomena, pressing social issues, and formulation of fundamental social critique, as well as straddle problematic divides including the subject-object, general-particular, individual-society, qualitative-quantitative, consciousness-systems, and so forth.

Current projects: To date, several series have been developed in line with the nine overlapping clusters of research activity. For more information, please see our Key Projects, Series & Themes.

Critical Theory, Critical Thinking

What is critical research? Heathwood is an inclusive research project, open to those across academic disciplines. We take inspiration from the values of critical theory, particularly the early Frankfurt School, when it comes to understanding critical research in practice. However, our research program seeks to expand beyond the limits of critical theory, aiming to support a more inclusive, integrative vision.

Additionally, Heathwood does not interpret critical theory and critical thinking from a post-structuralist or post-modern perspective, as is common in much of contemporary social theory. Instead, Heathwood endeavors to move beyond post-structuralism and post-modern theory, not regressing to positivism but also not falling into the traps of relativism.

In learning from positive or progressive practices in the natural sciences, which, set against the post-structural and post-modern takeover of social theory, Heathwood attempts to preserve non-dogmatic notions of “truth” as informed by critical theory’s normative foundations. In preserving a non-dogmatic a concept of truth (Bronner, 2004), Heathwood’s CTRP is based on an open process of constant consensus-forming and the positive aspects of peer-review. A wider example of this in practice may be found in contemporary climate science, where a clear basis of consensus forming is practiced among scientists throughout the world.

We can rely on the “critical thinking” movement to offer one part of the answer. Here we come to understand the basic values of reasonable, open and engaging form of critical thinking and discourse.

Second, by “critical” we refer to the practice of critical theory. This phrase alone may appear ambiguous to researchers not familiar with critical theory. However, the intention behind this statement is to refer to the practice of the program of critical research as laid out by the early Frankfurt School.

In short: We should oppose the separation between social theory, science, and philosophy, and aim for a sort of synthesis between philosophy and the specialized sciences. As Doug Kellner (2013) reflects: One of the first major conceptions of critical social theory was formulated on the basis of such a synthesis of social science and philosophy, wherein Horkheimer envisioned “a program of supradisciplinary research which would investigate current social and political problems. This project would unite “philosophers, sociologists, economists, historians, and psychologists [among others] in an ongoing research community who would do together what in other disciplines one individual does alone in the laboratory — which is what genuine scientists have always done: namely, to pursue the great philosophical questions using the most refined scientific methods; to reformulate and to make more precise the questions in the course of work as demanded by the object; and to develop new methods without losing sight of the universal” (ibid:41).”

Third, the notion of “critical research” and thinking owes a great deal, historically, to the radical Enlightenment and its epistemology, including its earliest approaches to the study of natural and social phenomena in line with an alternative anthropology and cosmology. Stephen Bronner’s Reclaiming the Enlightenment (2004) is a one good reference. Internally, at Heathwood, this comprehensive paper on Reclaiming the Enlightenment and Grounding Normativity by Arnold De Graaff and R.C. Smith also serves as a guide.

In opposition to subjectivism and relativism, as well as the reverse in positivism, Heathwood’s critical approach to research and understanding, to borrow the words of Douglas Kellner, advances “the conception of a critical and normative theory which is committed to emancipation from all forms of oppression, as well as to freedom, happiness, and a rational ordering of society”. Additionally, “in contrast to the often hypertheoretical and apolitical discourse of postmodern theory”, Heathwood’s critical research program aims to establish “a connection with empirical analysis of the contemporary world and social movements which are attempting to transform society in progressive ways”.

The Crisis of Higher Education – An Intervention

The contemporary model of the neoliberal university is in crisis. One of the core problems is the intensification of the division of academic labour. Heathwood’s research program seeks to respond to this particular crisis by calling for an integrative approach to understanding social issues. This includes a critique of the current state of academics.

So often in contemporary academia, researchers and investigators move from or toward a certain framework in order to offer explanation about a particular issue or to analyze a particular phenomenon. One of the goals of CTRP is to transcend identity politics within academia and the often one-dimensionality of research as a result of popular ‘ism’ or ‘ist’ orientations.

The modern neoliberal university tends to ossify thought into fixed disciplines and participates in a gatekeeping system of determining ‘legitimate’ knowledge, which by no means is as “objective” a process as honored pretensions would suggest. Such universities often produce, if not reproduce, an arena of class privilege (ignoring things like the adjunct crisis, for example) and perpetuate an aura of intellectual elitism.

This has resulted in, or has at least combined with, what Axel Honneth has called the “deficit of reason”. The revolt against esoteric knowledge and “academese” has dovetailed quite dramatically with anti-intellectual trends in society, which, while anti-elitist, are also profoundly anti-Enlightenment, and as we observe within the contemporary political world, these trends are actually very dangerous. The “debate” over whether climate change is real is a case in point. Respect for expert learned knowledge is an important defense against destructive fundamentalisms, and, ultimately, even fascistic political developments.

At the same time, it is said that we live in a “post-truth society”. Normativity, as a result of postmodern and poststructuralist theory, in addition to remaining concepts of “truth”, have largely been boiled away. This has also led, in the field of social practice and also in the field of theoretical pursuit (particularly in the social sciences), to a deepening of subjectivism and relativism, often bordering on a new form of nihilism. Heathwood seeks to offer an intervention to this broad contemporary dilemma in a highly nuanced and critical way.

The amassing of knowledge, the honoring of reason and of the intellect, is a huge part of a positive Enlightenment project, and is central part of what makes us human – the ability for conceptual thought and reflection, the building of foundations across generations, and so on.

How can we collectively prefigure as a way of life such reflection and generating of hypothesis and knowledge, without such activity being limited to a select “elite” few?

The rigidity of disciplines, the perversion of the university under the pressures of capital to become overwhelmingly a training ground in technical skills, is a threat to the Enlightenment project. In effort to reclaim the Enlightenment idea of the university, the idea of positive and emancipatory idea of academic practice, as rooted in critical thinking, Heathwood endeavors to offer a viable opposition to academic elitism and radical alternative space for research and research publication.

Supporting Transformative Policy and Progressive Social Movements

In developing and advancing these innovative research methods and practices, the aim of the project is to also seek connection and engagement with communities, social movements and policy makers attempting to transform society in progressive ways.

According to the guiding research values stated above, CTRP actively pursues the integration of individual frameworks and fields of expertise to help guide movements on the level of praxis. When we look at various examples of positive forms of practice, there is a clear need for and integration of expertise from a number of fields to not only help inform these movements; but to also help inform the development of a progressive, critical and transformative course of policy.

Academic research and practice, understood in a radical Enlightenment sense (Bronner, 2004), should seek to contribute, critically, to advancing knowledge and understanding in whatever particular area, including practice. Critical research is not critical if it does not also seek to inform praxis and guide the development of alternatives.

Research and Publication Examples

The following is a curated list of examples of past research publications, which act as a template or guiding illustration for prospective authors.

Combining a diversity of perspectives – from the natural sciences to epistemology, cognitive science, anthropology, history, philosophy – this paper by Arnold de Graaff and R.C. Smith serves to offer an alternative ‘foundational’ view of many core issues. Bridging philosophy, science and empirical study, it is widely informed and operates at the intersection of numerous disciplines, covering a range of topics from philosophy of history and science to ethics. See: http://www.heathwoodpress.com/rc-smith-arnold-degraaff-reclaiming-the-enlightenment-grounding-normativity/

Another example of CTRP will be found in the coming issue of the Heathwood Journal on Education in theory and practice. You can read more about it here: http://www.heathwoodpress.com/call-for-papers-new-horizons-a-radical-alternative-philosophy-of-education-heathwood-journal/

Arnold De Graaff’s article on the Paris Climate Agreement is another worth review. Here is an interdisciplinary study, informed by critical theory, which also includes an empirical analysis of the Paris Climate Agreement in relation to issues of climate change. It also combines climate science with immediate policy proposals. You can find it here: http://www.heathwoodpress.com/the-paris-climate-agreement-and-the-fight-against-climate-change-a-detailed-summary/

Martyn Hudson’s article is interesting, because it integrates Philosophy of History, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Geography (among others) in its study of the notion of the Anthropocene.
http://www.heathwoodpress.com/the-empire-of-neolithia-martyn-hudson/

This paper on a new conception of Social Pathology aims, in part, to advance certain critical theoretical concepts, while at the same time integrating certain core Frankfurt School theses with an interdisciplinary framework. Contemporary research at the forefront of psychology is, for example, combined with studies in anthropology, medicine, cognitive science, neuroscience, education, and so on. http://www.heathwoodpress.com/r-c-smith-society-social-pathology-and-the-deformation-of-the-subject-toward-a-radical-philosophy-of-psychology-part-1/

The following paper by Christian Fuchs also serves a good guide for similar reasons as the others, focusing mainly on communication and media: http://www.heathwoodpress.com/critical-theory-of-information-communication-media-technology/

More will be added to the list as we go.

September, 2016