What are the purposes of higher education? When undergraduates “declare their majors,” they agree to enter into a world defined by the parameters of a particular academic discourse—a discipline. But who decides those parameters? How do they come about? What are the discussions and proposed outcomes of disciplined inquiry? What should an undergraduate know to be considered educated in a discipline? How does the disciplinary knowledge base inform its pedagogy? Why are there different disciplines? When has a discipline “run its course”? Where do new disciplines come from? Where do old ones go? How does a discipline produce its knowledge? What are the meanings and purposes of disciplinary research and teaching? What are the key questions of disciplined inquiry? What questions are taboo within a discipline? What can the disciplines learn from one another? What might they not want to learn and why?
Once we begin asking these kinds of questions, positionality becomes a key issue. One reason why there aren’t many books on the meaning and purpose of higher education is that once such questions are opened for discussion, one’s subjectivity becomes an issue with respect to the presumed objective stances of Western higher education. Academics don’t have positions because positions are “biased,” “subjective,” “slanted,” and therefore somehow invalid. So the first thing to do is to provide a sense—however broad and general—of what kinds of positionalities will inform the books and chapters on the above questions. Certainly the questions themselves, and any others...