The foundation of Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry is the mentoring relationship between senior faculty and our postdoctoral scholars. In talented junior faculty we have hired in recent years and among our own dissertation students we have found both the curiosity and the ambition to achieve a more integrated way of thinking about their dissertation research than has been common in traditional Ph.D. programs in the humanities and social sciences. Such work has been conducted under such rubrics as cultural studies, area studies, and gender studies, and research in these areas has often meant the integration of social history with aesthetics, of demography with popular culture, or economic history with cultural forms. Work on Renaissance theater, painting, and authorship is now regularly informed by the study of early modern economics, patronage, and legal history. Further, contemporary literary study and intellectual history are often supplemented and strengthened by the insights of social psychology into gender identity and gender formation, and fields like American colonial history or early modern European history have been transformed by the insights of cultural anthropology into the practices of gift exchange, ritual, and performance.
These examples just touch the surface of the current climate of interdisciplinary scholarship. Fundamental to all such work is expertise in fields allied to but beyond the doctoral student’s disciplinary training. Since nothing, to our mind, is more important to effective interdisciplinary work than sustained inquiry into and training in more than one traditional field of humanities or social sciences research, we see the mentor relation between a senior faculty member and the postdoctoral scholar as crucial to Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry.