The ‘tribes and territories’ metaphor for the cultures of academic disciplines and their roots in different knowledge characteristics has been used by those interested in university life and work since the early 1990s. This book draws together research, data and theory to show how higher education has gone through major change since then and how social theory has evolved in parallel. Together these changes mean there is a need to re-theorise academic life in a way which reflects changed contexts in universities in the twenty-first century, and so a need for new metaphors.

Using a social practice approach, the editors and contributors argue that disciplines are alive and well, but that in a turbulent environment where many other forces conditioning academic practices exist, their influence is generally weaker than before. However, the social practice approach adopted in the book highlights how this influence is contextually contingent – how disciplines are deployed in different ways for different purposes and with varying degrees of purchase.

This important book pulls together the latest thinking on the subject and offers a new framework for conceptualising the influences on academic practices in universities. It brings together a distinguished group of scholars from across the world to address questions such as:

  • Have disciplines been displaced by inter-disciplinarity, having outlived their usefulness?
  • Have other forces acting on the academy pushed disciplines into the background as factors shaping the practices of academics and students there?
  • How significant are disciplinary differences in teaching and research practices?
  • What is their significance in other areas of work in universities?

This timely book addresses a pressing concern in modern education, and will be of great interest to university professionals, managers and policy-makers in the field of higher education.

chapter |2 pages


ByPaul Trowler, Murray Saunders, Veronica Bamber

part 1|36 pages

Theorising (Inter-)Disciplinarity and Social Practices

chapter 1|25 pages

Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity

Conceptual Groundwork
ByPaul Trowler

chapter 2|9 pages

Disciplines and Academic Practices

ByPaul Trowler

part 2|57 pages

Disciplinary Differences and Research Practices

chapter 3|3 pages

Disciplinary Differences and Research Practices

Key Themes
ByPaul Trowler

chapter 4|13 pages

Beyond Tribes and Territories

New Metaphors for New Times
ByCatherine Manathunga, Angela Brew

chapter 5|11 pages

Law, Research and the Academy

ByFiona Cownie

chapter 6|10 pages

Doing Research

The Case of Art and Design
ByPaul Trowler

chapter 7|13 pages

Research Strategies

ByNicola Spurling

chapter 8|5 pages

Theorising Disciplines and Research Practices

ByPaul Trowler

part 3|70 pages

Disciplinary Differences and Learning and Teaching Practices

chapter 9|8 pages

Learning and Teaching in the Disciplines

Challenging Knowledge, Ubiquitous Change
ByVeronica Bamber

chapter 10|11 pages

The Evolving Landscape of Nursing Science in the 21st Century

The Finnish Case
ByAnne Laiho

chapter 11|12 pages

The Pedagogic Device

Sociology, Knowledge Practices and Teaching–Learning Processes
ByPaul Ashwin, Andrea Abbas, Monica McLean

chapter 12|12 pages

Scene Changes and Key Changes

Disciplines and Identities in HE Dance, Drama and Music
ByPaul Kleiman

chapter 13|13 pages

‘We're Engaged'

Mechanical Engineering and the Community
ByChristine Winberg

chapter 14|11 pages

Learning and Teaching, Disciplines and Social Practice Theory

ByVeronica Bamber

part 4|92 pages

Catalysts for Changing Disciplinary Practices

chapter 15|6 pages

Imperatives for Academic Practices

Catalysts for Sustained Change
ByMurray Saunders

chapter 16|11 pages

Crossing Tribal Boundaries

Interdisciplinarity as a Threshold Concept
ByRay Land

chapter 17|11 pages

Change Vectors and Academic Identities

Evolving Tribes and Territories
ByKerri-Lee Krause

chapter 18|11 pages


Troublesome Knowledge for the Disciplines
ByValerie A. Clifford

chapter 19|12 pages

Teaching in an Age of ‘Supercomplexity'

Lecturer Conceptions in Context
BySusan J. Lea, Lynne Callaghan

chapter 20|12 pages

Technology and Change in Academic Practice

ByMartin Oliver

chapter 21|9 pages

Transformations from Without and Within the Disciplines

The Emerging Practice Landscape
ByMurray Saunders

chapter 22|18 pages


Academic Practices and the Disciplines in the 21st Century
ByPaul Trowler, Murray Saunders, Veronica Bamber