Environmental history within a revitalized integrative research methodology for today and tomorrow
Van Eeden, Elize S.
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In the past decades, historians and scientists worldwide have focused intensively on researching and recording the micro and macro trends of the environmental history of many places with reference to numerous aspects of nature that involve people. Yet no definite methodology, epistemology or even theory has resulted from these research contributions, which were and are being conducted within disciplinary and sometimes interdisciplinary frameworks. The transdisciplinary research approach, at least as practiced by historians, is a ‘newcomer’, although it features familiar criteria. For several reasons, some historians appear to be neither in favour of, nor familiar with, research co-operation with other disciplines, private practitioners or informed community members. There are obstacles to using a research methodology that complements the interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approach, especially the grey areas of research quality, source validity, methodology and publication value. However, if approached constructively and meaningfully, transdisciplinary research may result in what we could call higher-order research because it is all-inclusive and can provide diverse perspectives on any theme, for example, environmental history. This article discusses the possibility of progressing towards ‘transdisciplinary’ as part of an integrative multidisciplinary approach in research on environmental history. An integrative multidisciplinary (‘triangular’) research model is proposed, especially for use by historians and others who want to approach environmental research from disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives. It is also hoped that this discussion will stimulate the debate by historians on research co-operation with the social sciences and humanities, as well as collaboration with non-related sciences in environmental history.
- Faculty of Humanities