Symposium 2015

The Limits of Collaboration: Assessing Collaborative Research in Anthropology

University of St Andrews

11th and 12th September, 2015

Collaboration, the process through which anthropologists and participants share in the design, implementation and dissemination of research, is currently emerging strongly as a transformative drive in anthropology. 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.

And yet, collaboration is not without its challenges. The speakers in this symposium have all carried out collaborative research, and have first hand experience of the difficulties involved in funding, implementing and disseminating non-hierarchical, reciprocal, and engaged research projects. The aim of this symposium is to review the collaborative work that we have carried out so far, critically assessing the strengths and weaknesses of collaboration both as an outlook and a set of diverse practices in anthropology. The symposium will explore the potential and limits of collaboration, what it can and cannot deliver, and its place in the future of the discipline.

Some of the questions that will be examined are:

As academics, we know that funding and publishing conventions mould our research:

  • How do disciplinary constraints and expectations shape the kinds of collaborative work that we can practically carry out?
  • To what extent can collaborative projects meet expectations of academic value, and local expectations of relevance, at the same time?
  • Can collaborative work be both scholarly and accessible?
  • What conceptualisations of audience shape collaborative work?
  • How can our collaborators address academic audiences given language and funding restrictions?

Collaboration is often depicted as a more accountable, more reciprocal, and more egalitarian way of knowing and representing the Other:

  • Are non-hierarchical research relationships between anthropologists and collaborators possible or even desirable?
  • What kinds of divisions of labour work and do not work in collaborative research projects?
  • In what ways can collaborative work silence, select, and construct particular voices and perspectives?
  • How can collaborative work generate hierarchies and inequalities between and among anthropologists and their collaborators?

Anthropology privileges textual outputs over non-textual research results, yet non-textual outputs are often preferred by collaborators:

  • What is the academic status of non-textual outputs?
  • Is it possible or even desirable to make non-textual outputs academically relevant?

Collaborative anthropology often involves forms of co-authorship and intellectual reciprocity between collaborators and anthropologist:

  • What forms of co-authorship are possible, and to what extent should these be reciprocal and non-hierarchical?
  • What roles do anthropologists and collaborators take in the production of co-authored texts or other outputs, and what do these roles reveal about the conventions of anthropological practice?
  • To what extent and in what ways do local and indigenous ways of knowing and representing shape co-authored outputs?

The Programme and Speakers and Abstracts are now available.