n South African Journal of Higher Education - Reflexivity and new modes of knowledge production : the case of the human and social sciences

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In terms of its role as knowledge producer, the university is necessarily involved in the evolution of what is called a knowledge society. Integral to this evolution are changes to the way(s) in which knowledge is produced, disseminated and validated. The middle to late 20th century witnessed new ways of validating knowledge in the social sciences, following the demise of the hegemony of positivism. For example, reflexivity gained prominence as a strategy for enhancing the credibility of research as opposed to more traditional validities. However, Bourdieu (with reference to the social sciences and in particular sociology) expresses a concern about the temptation of indulging in a type of reflexivity that might be called narcissistic. Such a propensity might be the consequence of the individualistic manner in which much work is performed in the social sciences. However, Gibbons and his colleagues point out that in an emerging knowledge society we are observing an irreversible shift from disciplinary knowledge production (Mode 1 knowledge) to transdisciplinary knowledge-generation (Mode 2 knowledge) which, could counteract the tendency towards narcissistic forms of reflexivity. In this article, I wish to explore alternative reflexivities that Mode 2 knowledge production processes could open up for research in the humanities and social sciences.

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