(Un)-Making the Boundaries of Environmental Law Scholarship: Interdisciplinarity Beyond the Social Sciences?

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Public environmental law, many argue, is a young discipline originating in the late 1960s, when environmental problems became recognised by politics, policy and the public. Environmental law scholarship is therefore searching for greater recognition among more established legal subjects and in academia in general. To date, few academic voices have attempted to reflect on environmental law as a discipline discussing methodological and interdisciplinary challenges. This paper provides a contribution to this emerging literature by asking whether the boundaries of environmental law scholars can be pushed beyond the social sciences and whether interdisciplinary encounters with natural scientists can be made in the present context of U.K. Universities. It argues that, if interdisciplinary research between environmental law scholars and other social scientists is developing, the interactions between environmental law scholarship and natural scientists are more embryonic. The chapter sketches some of the institutional and epistemological challenges that arise from attempted interdisciplinary collaborations of this sort. More specifically, in relation to the institutional challenges it discusses first the rise of the "audit culture" in U.K. Universities and what the Research Excellence Framework (REF) means for such interdisciplinary collaborations and, second the rise of doctoral training partnerships with interdisciplinary pathways and cross-council scholarship attached to them and their limitations. As for the epistemological challenges, the extent to which knowledge formation is understood differently between the macro-sciences (natural sciences and social sciences) is discussed. Borrowing from the insights of the Science and Technology Studies (STS) literature, the chapter argues that the boundaries between the natural and the social are blurred and so they are between disciplines. It is argued that the demarcation of disciplines is more a product of current institutional practices and assertions of authority than an inherent epistemological difference between disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Environmental Law Scholarship
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on Purpose, Shape and Direction
EditorsOle W Pedersen
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781108635929
ISBN (Print)9781108475242
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018

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