Becher, T., & Trowler, P. R. (2001). Academic Tribes and Territories (2nd Ed.)
Buckingham: Open University Press.
1. Educational Landscapes
Mapping the territory of academic knowledge
Coalescence of knowledge into academic disciplines / cultures
Modes of Knowledge (Gibbons, 2000)
Traditional, pure knowledge
Academic-driven and discipline-centred.
Applied, trans-disciplinary, problem-oriented knowledge
Non-academic-driven and entrepreneurial.
2. Academic Disciplines
What constitutes / defines a discipline?
• Structural / institutional / organisational / departmental
• Geographical (national / international)
Disciplines have recognisable identities and cultural attributes apparent in:
• Language / discourse
• Traditions, customs, practices, rules etc.
Disciplinary Cultures: how academics engage with subject matter, and develop
recurrent practices among a group of people in a given context
Relationship with Learning Theories
NeoVygotskyist and Postmodernist approaches - Socio-Constructivist, Situated
practice (e.g. Wenger, Engestrom), cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1979)
Acquiring membership of disciplinary community.
New members construct rather than adopt ways of being –
identity, values, knowledge and practices etc.
4. Taxonomy: Cognitive Component
Hard < > Soft and Pure < > Applied
Hard / Pure
General areas of human understanding - Clustered around limited small problems
Hard / Applied
Focus on product-orientated techniques
Soft / Pure
Heteregeneous, personal and specific- study the particular rather than general
Soft / Applied
Directed by non-academic interests - focus on ‘useful topics’
Combination Category Example
Hard / Pure Pure Sciences Physics
Soft / Pure Humanities History
Hard / Applied Technologies Mechanical Engineering
Soft / Applied Applied Social Sciences Education, Law etc
5. Taxonomy: Social Component
Urban < > Rural
Tightly composed, intense, competitive - teamwork and close-knit communities
e.g. Pure Sciences
Numerous themes of enquiry - little overlap between areas of focus
e.g. Arts and Humanities
Convergent < > Divergent
Collective kinship, mutuality of interests and beliefs, fraternity, scholarship, mutual
identity and common discourse
Ideologically fragmented, diffused across wide field – clusters of related