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Integral Studies

The understanding of integral studies shared by the members of the IFIS is informed by a variety of approaches across paradigms, disciplines, cultures and contexts. IFIS, however, is not exclusively bound to any specific stream or lead author. IFIS’ members and partners bring complementary, mutually critical approaches into an ongoing dialogue about the added value of an integral consciousness in research and higher education. A provisional account of IFIS members’ continuous reflection on the essentials of integral studies comprises the characteristics outlined in the following paragraphs.

An integral or likeminded (meta-) approach requires the researcher

  • to simultaneously hold several perspectives (paradigms, theories, lenses, voices, metaphors, categories …)
  • to be aware of how these perspectives arise, and to which extent, in which combination, and under which conditions they enhance or limit understanding of specific phenomena.
  • to engage in dialogues across usual boundaries (of paradigms, disciplines, cultures, languages, institutional roles,  thinking and communication styles etc), and to actually deepen and broaden one’s understanding through these dialogues.
  • to develop an awareness of the possibilities and limits of conceptual-verbal understanding, and creatively include complementary  forms of generating insight and connection.
  • to cultivate an objective-subjective awareness of the research process.

Integral (meta-) studies enacted by a committed research community imply to

  • non-dogmatically honor and consider the rainbow of longstanding traditions, paradigms, disciplines and theories contributing to the process of generating insight from both ends, reductionist and holistic.
  • initiate and organizationally sustain critical dialogue across the above-mentioned boundaries, working towards connections between existing islands of knowledge and knowledge generation in general, and between different types and streams of integral or likeminded approaches in particular.
  • explicate and enact a code of conduct inspired by values of inclusion, integration, and non-fragmentation of phenomena on and between the various planes (consciousness, subjectivities, ideas and concepts, organisms, socio-cultural, ecological and material systems etc).
  • enable the mutual and joint transformation of the researcher, the research approach, and the research output and its use and effects in real world contexts.

The research process of integral (meta-)studies is marked by 

  • a tight connection between the profound real-life problem-solving requirements the current glocalized mega-shift imposes and an ongoing critical reflection on its own foundations and contours as an upcoming academic field.
  • a theory-based connection between a plurality of perspectives, levels and domains of reality, values and concerns, voices and genres, methods and tools …
  • a recognition and consideration of different aspects or qualities of reality some of which can best be grasped as evolutionary, some rather as cyclical and some as non-developmental.
  • its self-reflective contextualization and application onto itself, on the conceptual and social level.

IFIS is a space where the awareness is cultivated that “integral” is just one of many labels actually in use for reflecting the above-mentioned consciousness brought to academic research and higher learning. There are many likeminded streams which are rather deployed as transdisciplinary, transmodern, critical realist, cosmopolitan, (neo-)humanist, meta-systemic, meta-theoretical, unity-in-diversity, complexity, quantum, or under still different labels. Any of these labels generally covers several streams and fine-grained distinctions in itself.

IFIS is honoring this diversity of traditions while focusing much more on the deeper resonance and complementarity between them than on the diverse terminological surfaces.