If you are wondering “what matters” in the world today and how you should be studying it, an interdisciplinary studies approach could be the answer.
In the current global Covid-19 pandemic, pressing social, economic and environmental issues are highlighted every single day. Many issues are exacerbated by the crisis in often predictable ways as vulnerable people are further marginalised by Covid-19 emergency measures.
In May 2020, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (SIS) launched an Insight Briefing series drawing on the expertise of SOAS academics, to examine how Covid-19 was impacting areas that they research.
The SIS Insight Briefing series aims to make our academics’ critical interdisciplinary research on international relations, diplomacy, gender and sexuality, queer cultures, media and communication, digital cultures, journalism, security, sustainable development and climate change in Asia, Africa and the Middle East regions and their diasporas accessible to all.
The SIS Insight Briefing series is led by Dr Feja Lesniewska, an interdisciplinary academic. She is Senior Teaching Fellow in Global Energy and Climate Law and Policy, and Climate Change Law with The Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) and the School of Law. Her research covers climate change, natural resources, energy, digital technology, law, policy and governance — a truly interdisciplinary portfolio!
Dr Feja Lesniewska, noted that
“SIS [is] privileged to have so many academic experts from around the world working on cutting-edge research that transcends disciplines recognising the intersectionality within, between and across issues that face our world at this time of crisis and transformation. As such [SIS] was in a good position to reflect on how the pandemic was impacting a wide range of issues.”
Since May 2020, the Insight Briefing series has addressed a wide range of questions including:
- Why is it that farmers in poorer countries don’t have enough to eat during the pandemic?
- What happens to the Rohingya, when 80% of aid workers have withdrawn from the camps?
- Is capitalism up to the task of ‘fixing’ the economy?
- Why does the environment – and sport – matter more than ever?
- How are African countries tackling Covid-19?
- What does the media say about Covid-19 in the Arab World?
- How can international diplomacy play its part to overcome the pandemic?
- What is the new ‘battlefield’ between the US and China?
- Which is more important: to fund healthcare or build weapons?
Building up the kind of transdisciplinary expertise that NGOs, governments, charities, campaigners, advisory groups and others will want to ‘pick your brains’ about, may seem a remote goal. But if you feel strongly about social justice, or are passionate about a cause, have a quick glance at the biography of the relevant academic writers for the Insight Briefing series: each academic embarked on a BA or BSc in a single or joint subject area, then via MA and PhD expanded into multiple or comparative research areas; studies which transcend the boundaries of individual disciplines, aka interdisciplinary studies.
Often they have worked in between their studies to gain experience that informs subsequent educational qualifications. Many are continuing their own education by taking further professional development courses as well as MAs. The journey of a transdisciplinary scholar is usually a life-long one but filled with adventure. One step at a time!
Interdisciplinary study and research is at the heart of SOAS. We have more unique degree combinations than any other university, which means many of our students are studying in two very different departments: this breadth and depth enriches their study and broadens their horizons.
Our students strive for social justice and equality and can frequently be found debating – and sometimes protesting – around issues such as migration and refugees, decolonisation, climate change and the environment, freedom of speech and gender equality.
From day one at our central London campus, you will be encouraged to challenge conventional views and think globally – and that’s one of the reasons why our graduates go on to develop careers that make a real difference.