The role of pliability and transversality within trans/disciplinarity: opening university research and learning to planetary health

Jason Prior, Carole M. Cusack, Anthony Capon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, there have been calls to open university research and learning through transdisciplinarity. The inference here is that the increased specialisation of disciplines has created isolation, division, exclusion, separation and fixity within research and learning. This chapter explores the potential for openness in university research and learning through a discussion of the relationality of transdisciplinarity and disciplinarity. An examination of this relationality is valuable, given that transdisciplinarity and disciplinarity are intimately connected and co-dependent. This relationality is explored through two concepts that we argue constitute its potential to create openness in university research and learning: pliability and transversality. This chapter argues that disciplines, be they science, planning, law, health or religion, manage to be both open to change, constantly becoming-other, and universal, abstract, and eternal. Whilst this pliability of disciplinarity is often translated as disciplinary inadequacy, we argue that this pliability is a valuable component of disciplinarity, and that it provides the site for the transversality of transdisciplinarity. We explore these concepts through reference to a recent problematization of disciplinary research and learning at the human and environment nexus, which has given rise to the notion of planetary health, and its call for a substantial and urgent opening of research and learning to understand and address emerging geo-social assemblages such as the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransdisciplinary Theory, Practice and Education
Subtitle of host publicationThe Art of Collaborative Research and Collective Learning
EditorsDena Fam, Linda Neuhauser, Paul Gibbs
Place of PublicationCham switzerland
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319937434
ISBN (Print)9783319937427
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Planetary health
  • Pliability
  • Problematization
  • Trans/disciplinarity
  • Transversality

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