21 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2017

See all articles by Daniel E. Esser

Daniel E. Esser

American University - School of International Service

James Mittelman

American University

Date Written: October 5, 2017


This paper assesses transdisciplinarity as an epistemological and methodological approach to research and teaching in the emerging field of global studies. It posits that the world’s most pressing problems in the areas of migration, health and intersectional identity politics, to name a few, are unlikely to be addressed convincingly by inquiries rooted exclusively in singular social science disciplines. At the same time, transdisciplinarity is understood as a means to complement disciplinary research, not to dispense with it. By foregrounding global-local dynamics and their effects across scales, global studies can draw from a wealth of approaches and experiences in interdisciplinary scholarship without becoming entangled in protracted epistemological battles over scholarly turf. The paper provides examples of transdisciplinary research in global studies and closes by stressing the importance of disciplinary methodological innovations as building blocks for multi-modal designs and arguing for methodological rigor in global studies, whether transdisciplinary or not.

Keywords: transdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, global studies, globalization, international studies, regional studies, epistemology, methodology, teaching

Suggested Citation

Esser, Daniel E. and Mittelman, James, Transdisciplinarity (October 5, 2017). School of International Service Research Paper No. 2017-3, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel E. Esser (Contact Author)

American University - School of International Service ( email )

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Washington, DC 20016
United States
+1 (202) 885-1892 (Phone)


James Mittelman

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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