The Collaborative Anthropology Research Group at the University of St Andrews is made up of staff and doctoral students working to incorporate elements of collaboration into their research projects. Some of us have been engaged in collaborative work for several years, others are beginning to think about the possibilities, challenges and limits of collaboration.
We take collaboration to be the process through which informants and anthropologist share in the design, implementation and dissemination of research. Collaboration is currently emerging strongly as a transformative drive in anthropology, mirroring developments in other disciplines. These include human geography, craft, design, social psychology and international relations, where forms of engaged scholarship and the deployment of local and indigenous methodologies are becoming increasingly significant. Across the humanities and social sciences, collaborative research aims to make academic work accountable and relevant to the communities under study, enhancing its importance and its impact.
Although sociocultural anthropology necessarily revolves around the cooperation between informants and anthropologists in the field, collaborative anthropology aims to extend this cooperation beyond its traditional framework. The result is a questioning and restructuring of anthropological practice and epistemology. Across a variety of forms, collaborative anthropology foregrounds the role of informants in the production of anthropological knowledge, encouraging a dialogue between academic intellectual interests and local concerns, desires and expectations. Collaborative anthropology aims towards egalitarian and reciprocal research methods, and towards accessible outputs that are relevant to the people we work with. Most importantly, collaborative anthropology attempts to enable collaborators to challenge the aims, methods, paradigms, and results of research.
In the current funding and research assessment climate, collaboration offers anthropology new ways of asserting its indispensability. The significance of collaboration is increasingly being recognised at an institutional level, with the most recent EASA conference and workshops at the latest AAA meeting dedicated to collaborative anthropology. Our Research Group aims to develop collaborative research, but also to examine collaboration critically, assessing the strengths and weakness of collaboration both as an outlook and a set of diverse practices in anthropology.