New Consortium on Trans/disciplinarity Launches at The New School

GIDEST (Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography, and Social Thought) was founded in 2014 at The New School via a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, but was born earlier out of discussions around how to bring together New School divisions, create bridges for faculty from Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research (NSSR), and help NSSR doctoral students broaden their dissertations. 

While GIDEST started out as an NSSR project, it expanded throughout the university with a fellowship program that helped faculty and graduate students develop their research in a collaborative environment and foster interdisciplinary projects. The fellowship program sought to create a space where faculty and students could meet new people from across campus, deepen their research practice, and expand their horizons by exchanging scholarly work and ideas. 

In 2022, GIDEST helped launch a new project – the Consortium on Trans/disciplinarity (CT/d), cofounded by Hugh Raffles, Professor of Anthropology at NSSR and Director of GIDEST; Eduardo Staszowski, Associate Professor of Design Strategies at Parsons and co-founder and Director of the Parsons DESIS [Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability] Lab; and John Bruce, Associate Professor of Design Strategies and Co-Director of Transdisciplinary Design MFA.

According to Hugh Raffles, Professor of Anthropology at NSSR and Director of GIDEST, “CT/d aims to create new linkages between the three different units — GIDEST, Parsons DESIS, and the MFA in Transdisciplinary Design. The research lab is GIDEST, the teaching lab is the MFA in Transdisciplinary Design and DESIS Lab is more of an applied lab for community-based projects. Each of the units keeps its identity, but by coming together, we’re able to provide a focus and a set of new pathways for students and faculty who are interested in doing transdisciplinary work of all kinds.”

CT/d aims to make transdisciplinarity more visible at The New School, creating opportunities in transdisciplinary spaces, and allowing students and faculty to move freely through these units in a more seamless and collaborative way. “Creating opportunities for people to work more closely together can allow for different kinds of projects to emerge,” says Raffles. 

This spring, CT/d launched a series of dialogues with funding from the dean’s offices at NSSR and Parsons that responded to the conversations happening among faculty, staff, students, and administrators in the wake of the part-time faculty strike by asking  “What Is A University For?” 

On February 10, 2023, the first dialogue “Why the University Today?” interrogated the purpose of the university in the face of neoliberal order as well as the meaning of labor at the university. The dialogue was moderated by Christoph Cox, Dean of Eugene Lang College, with panelists Wendy Brown, Political Theorist; and Cathy Davidson, Senior Advisor on Transformation to the Chancellor of the City University of New York and Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center, 

On March 10, 2023, the second dialogue, “Enabling Infrastructure,” explored what it means to transform the infrastructures enabling and advancing a transformation of the university. The dialogue featured K. Wayne Yang, Provost of Muir College and Professor in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and Co-Founder of the Indigenous Futures Institute and Black Like Water; Bedelia Richards Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Richmond and CEO of RaceTalk LLC, and Vanessa Andreotti, Director of the Peter Wall Institute for the Advanced Studies at the University British Columbia and incoming Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. 

The final dialogue in the series, “Remaking, Relearning,” explored the interlocking themes of  politics, and the practices of the university; effective infrastructure and scholarship and activism. The event took place on April 7, 2023, with panelists Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at the University of Michigan State University Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO of FLOX Studio and Designer-in-Residence at the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation Master’s program Sloan Leo  Associate Professor, at the Superior School of Industrial Design, State University of Rio de Janeiro (ESDI/UERJ) and Coordinator of Design and Anthropology Laboratory Zoy Anastassakis, Brazil and moderated by Renée T. White,  Provost, Executive Vice President, and Professor of Sociology at The New School.  

Transcripts of all three events will be made available on the GIDEST website.