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Tensions in Knowledge Disciplinary Fields

In addressing the concerns that drive this chapter, we start by looking at our own practice area of studies and introduce ourselves. In the field of research, we affiliate with the theme of Higher Education. According to the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes Foundation) classification, we are included in the great area1 ofHuman Sciences, subarea Specific Topics on Education, and specialty Higher Education. We are also affiliated to the subarea Evaluation of Educational Systems, Institutions, and Plans. But if we take into consideration Latin American Council of Social Sciences (Clacso) and the database Redalyc2 or the Science Citation Index (SCI),3 we are included in the Social Sciences field of knowledge and not in the category of Humanities. While it may seem easy for us to self-classify ourselves within the Human Sciences in CNPq and Social Sciences in Clacso/Redalyc, in practice, this is a process that demands reflection. Areas of knowledge, their disciplinary fields of research, harbor disputes, contradictions, and indefinite concepts. To talk about educational knowledge means to enter a pit of nonreferences, of hidden meanings, and difficult consensus. In other words, it is an anguished pursuit.

The puzzlement, the anguished pursuit of new concepts and categories that allow for the apprehension of the dynamic of reality—in a field of knowledge that still does not possess a tradition of institutionalization— the benefit of denouncing, and the intense politicization of studies are practices that can only be understood when related to the broader social context of which it is a part and with which it articulates (Azevedo and Aguiar, 2001). In the Education field, for example, we can consider the certainties and the tensions existing between epistemological identities. The configuration of the Sciences of Education was explained by Azevedo and Aguiar (2001):

... are constituted on the contributions originated in other fields, particularly the ones from the area of Social and Human Sciences, that, on the one side, have the meaning of a markedly multidisciplinary configuration and, on the other, the existence of an almost permanent tension between the juxtaposition and the integration of these knowledge in the field’s epistemological identity (Azevedo and Aguiar, 2001, p. 52).

The tension and the indefinable, however, overpower the certainties. Theory in education and theory in higher education, suggest thinking about paradoxes and canons and, certainly, contradictions. Perhaps it is embarrassing to assume a reality that is cumbersome, but it is necessary to face those limits, which are the evidence and possible paradoxes beyond the certainties. In 2004, Malcolm Tight, a renowned researcher in the subject area of Higher Education, claimed, researching journals published outside North America, that the theme Education/Higher Education would not have a defined theoretical framework. The research would be produced by an atheoretical community of practitioners (Tight, 2004). Although the contexts and times of which he speaks are different from the ones in which we transit and in which we practice our professional activities, we consider relevant the statement, wherever it may come from. After all, “what” defines the area of knowledge of Education, at least in one’s country, and directs politics and the researchers’ scientific production and, as a consequence, its evaluation?

In 2010, a colleague quoted, in an international journal, a part of a text by one of the authors of this chapter, reproducing a paragraph of another international journal. The journal’s editor in which this colleague’s article was published did not accept the existence of a theory that supported the argumentation and published an end note, in the colleague’s article, claiming that he disagreed and did not endorse the existence of the theory—in this case, the South Epistemologies—as nature of knowledge. That is, he disallowed the researcher of the Global South that employed the theory of a renowned sociologist. He also disallowed a colleague ofthe Global North that published a reference, perhaps, outside the canon (Alperin, 2013; Leite, 2010; Tight, 2004). Such comment amplified uncertainties about what or who defines the area of knowledge of Education, Higher Education, but reinforced the certainties of who defines the publication and the canon. The way we see it, the paradox is set. On the one side, an author claims that there is no theory; on the other, a theory is criticized and not endorsed by the international scientific editor! And what makes sense for international science?

 
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