I am excited to announce with my co-organizer, Amy Robbins, that our panel for the biennial meeting of the Society for Cultural Anthropology has been accepted and is on the preliminary schedule for Saturday, May 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Be there or be ■.
Infrastructures of Collaboration
As Marilyn Strathern (2006) has noted, recent decades have seen increasing calls to encourage spaces for collaboration. In this regard, collaboration is valorized for its pragmatism, as well as for the creative or innovative results it will produce via boundary-crossing. This hoped-for creativity is not only a matter of epistemic concern. In art worlds, for example, collaborative engagements are mobilized as a means of refiguring relations between art, artist, and public (Bourriad 2002). Governmental or industrial research programs, by contrast, might invoke collaboration as a driver of economic growth (Born and Barry 2010). This conviction in innovation has animated various calls for collaboration, including C.P. Snow’s classic The Two Cultures (1993 ), and more recent art-science collaborations in the UK studied by James Leach (2011, 2012). Anthropologists such as Leach and Anthony Stavrianakis (2015), however, are pausing to ask about the nature of such collaborative experiments, in the process demonstrating that idealizations of collaboration often fail amid the constraints of collaborative infrastructures.
Following Stavrianakis, this panel is organized around infrastructural issues – technologies of communication, the organization of labor, material arrangements of workspaces, professional habitus, and the accountabilities institutions are beholden to – that are more fundamental to the success or failure of collaborative engagements than individual personality and socialization. As anthropologists seek to collaboratively engage experts that are already negotiating these infrastructural milieu, we must address how ethnography might navigate infrastructural issues that shape and restrict collaborative relations. Drawing from research on collaborative projects at the Corning Museum of Glass, healthcare sharing ministries, the Deal Island Marsh and Community Project, translational medicine and phage therapy, and information technology and programming, we ask what might be learned through the study of collaborative infrastructures that can inform collaborative ethnographic engagements. How do the expectations and assumptions embedded in the design of collaborative projects shape their outcomes and perceptions? How do the values and moral commitments of collaborative partners shape collaborative potentials? How might we shift the role of the ethnographer from side-lined observer to collaborative participant? How are collaborative projects impacted by complexity and bureaucracy? How do mediums of communication and making shape collaborative relations? And, how far into the territory of experts must the ethnographer cross to be an effective collaborative partner? (more…)