Accounting Historians Engaging with Scholars Inside and Outside Accounting: Issues, Opportunities and Obstacles
Accounting History, Volume 22 issue 4, pp. 403-424
Posted: 2 Apr 2018
Date Written: August 22, 2017
Originating in a panel presentation at the eighth Accounting History International Conference, this study offers a reflection on the issues, opportunities and obstacles which may arise when accounting historians engage with other accounting scholars and scholars outside of accounting.
Supporting the view that accounting scholars need and should make an effort to engage with other scholars inside and outside accounting, various aspects are considered as enhancing the interdisciplinarity of accounting history research.
Then, issues such as researchers and the community, research problems, theories, methods and data are addressed. The opportunities arising from interdisciplinary interactions with a wide range of scholars are then developed. Finally, the potential obstacles are addressed.
Interdisciplinarity has enhanced the growth of accounting history research (Carnegie and Napier, 2012). This is particularly accentuated by the growing call for studying accounting as a social practice (see, for example, Burchell et al., 1994; Carnegie and Napier, 1996; Gomes, 2008; Hopwood, 2005; Miller, 1994; Potter, 2005), which significantly expanded the domain of accounting. Within accounting history research, new research topics, research approaches and the use of different theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches drawn from other disciplines have increased the potentialities and dimensions of the investigations undertaken (Gomes, 2008). Nonetheless, ‘much historical accounting research continues to use conventional economic and functionalist explanations to provide a theoretical underpinning that helps to make sense of the evidence’ (Carnegie and Napier, 2017: 74).
In fact, mainstream accounting research does not embrace this social conception of accounting and, as stated by Merchant (2008), ‘Currently, in the United States, accounting research using economics-based paradigms, theories, and jargon and using either analytical research methods or analysis of large samples of archival (“objective”) data rules the roost’ (p. 901). Despite this, and aligned with the so-called ‘interdisciplinary and critical perspectives on accounting’ project (Broadbent and Laughlin, 2013; Carnegie and Napier, 2017), accounting history research is seen as inherently interdisciplinary and as adopting innovative theoretical frameworks.
However, as suggested by Gomes et al. (2011) (see also, Gomes et al., 2015), a practical strategy for enhancing the impact of accounting history research is to foster the engagement with diverse groups of scholars, both accounting researchers and scholars from other disciplines. This study aims to stimulate and call for interdisciplinary accounting history research. In fact, this study clearly supports the view that accounting historians need and should make an effort to engage with other scholars inside and outside accounting.
Nonetheless, and although accounting historians have been stimulated previously to engage with other scholars and interdisciplinarity has been advocated, it is necessary to consider how accounting historians may foster this engagement and to debate the issues and obstacles, and the interesting opportunities for accounting and accounting history research of the genre.
The following structure is adopted in this study. First, three aspects are considered for enhancing the interdisciplinarity of accounting history research: (1) the coming of age, (2) expanding horizons and (3) the window of time, all of which portray aspects of the accounting history academy. Then, we address particular issues that need to be considered by accounting historians when aiming to integrate insights from other disciplines and to engage with scholars both within and outside accounting.
The opportunities arising from interdisciplinary interactions are then reviewed. Finally, the potential obstacles which may prevent accounting scholars from engaging in interdisciplinary research are addressed. These obstacles can be overcome by the development of robust communication and the invention of a new genre of discourse and research focus and by working with those outside our discipline and embracing the challenge of the new and the different.
Keywords: accounting, accounting history, accounting history research and publication, interdisciplinary accounting history
JEL Classification: M40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation