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Ahalya Satkunaratnam: The Art of Interdisciplinary versus the Market of “Innovative” Education

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"Interdisciplinary" and "innovative" are keywords used in today's competitive market of education. Universities pride themselves on creating interdisciplinary classes and for awarding interdisciplinary degrees through self-designed curriculum. Historically, interdisciplinary fields (and now, disciplines) were created to speak against separations and hierarchies set up in academic structures. Fields that were established through interdisciplinary scholarship (for instance, cultural studies, ethnic studies, indigenous studies, and women’ s and gender studies) were initially (and somewhat continue to be) viewed as groundbreaking challenges to academic culture. They brought forth complicated epistemologies that were situated in the margins. Although the relationships are complicated and contested, these fields often engage with notions of liberatory education.Furthermore, frequently in the interdisciplinary curriculum or course, the arts are included as a means of encompassing and embracing interdisciplinary knowledges and permitting a sense of self-expression—necessary for the notion of "self"-designed curriculum. The arts are cited and utilized in interdisciplinary courses and within "innovative" curricula to allow a "progressive" notion of accessibility, synthesizing— "naturally"—multiple ways of knowing, learning, and expression. This talk will explore the use of the arts in interdisciplinary approaches to education through a focus on a specific liberal arts and sciences curriculum. I propose that epistemologies situated in the academic and cultural margins, including certain arts practices, can in fact, find themselves damaged through notions of "innovative" and "interdisciplinary" in the modern university.
Recording of talk by dance scholar Ahalya Satkunaratnam.Ahalya Satkunaratnam is a Chicagoan at heart and on the dance floor and a Malaysian-born dance scholar and dancer who found herself in Vancouver after joining the faculty of Quest University Canada in 2014. There, she teaches courses in cultural studies, performing arts, and women’s and gender studies. Her upcoming book to be published by Wesleyan University Press, Moving Bodies, Navigating Conflict: Practicing Bharata Natyam in Colombo, Sri Lanka, explores how dance practices make and undo local and state nationalisms, the intersections of gender and ethnicity with cultural practices, and the personal experiences of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war.
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