Transdisciplinarity ‘Meets’ Power Structures: Challenges and Experiences of a Capacity Building Project on Transdisciplinarity


  • Petra Dannecker University of Vienna



Collaboration, Knowledge, North-South, Power Structures, Transdisciplinarity


The aim of the paper is to discuss and to reflect on the experiences and challenges encountered during the North-South capacity building project on transdisciplinarity, KNOTS (Fostering Multi-Lateral Knowledge Networks of Transdisciplinary Studies to Tackle Global Challenges), which was financed by the EU through the Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education program. Despite the large body of literature on transdisciplinary approaches and projects, not many studies exist that discuss both the political and the power dimensions within transdisciplinary endeavors, especially not from a social science perspective. Based on the experiences, challenges, and progress over the course of the project, I will analyze how power relations influenced and structured KNOTS. I argue that the success of transdisciplinary North-South collaborations depends very much on awareness of power hierarchies, reflexivity, and positionality as well as different understandings of knowledge. Although differences will be highlighted regarding, for example, the aims of transdisciplinarity or the role of different understandings of science and knowledge, the paper does not aim to increase skepticism regarding transdisciplinarity. Instead, the intent of the reflections is to increase awareness of the influences of power structures and relations in transdisciplinarity projects, especially North-South collaboration projects.

Author Biography

Petra Dannecker, University of Vienna

Petra Dannecker is professor of Development Sociology and, since 2011, head of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna. Before coming to Vienna, she was assistant professor at the Department of Sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany, and senior research fellow at the German Development Institute in Bonn. Her research interests include development politics, globalization and migration processes, transnationalism and gender, and migration and development. Her regional focus is South and Southeast Asia.


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