Speakers and Abstracts

Collaboration and resistance: fusion, friction and flow in collaborative research.

Stephanie Bunn (University of St Andrews)



The paper explores the effort, ease and learning generated by working together, noting that collaboration can have both positive and negative aspects and outcomes, as can its converse, resistance. This can have application for both how people ‘get along’, and also for the products of collaboration.


Of particular concern is working together through practice. The paper contends that collaboration while working practically can be productive for both group cohesion, and also for new perspectives and ideas. The paper argues that the kind of attention which comes through movement and skill allows connections and analogies to be developed, as participants both practically engage with intellectual questions while reflecting upon them. This is illustrated by recent work on the Woven Communities Project, where we incorporated basketry practice within the context of scholarly debate, to find that the debate was enhanced through the act of working while talking.


A second concern is the juxtaposition of different kinds of knowledge that collaboration brings. This part of the paper has been inspired by LUCA School of Art’s work On the Creative Act which draws on Jacob von Uexküll’s work on the Umwelt. It also links to Koestler’s notions of association and bisociation, and analogy, where hitherto unrelated forms of knowledge are combined, (see his Ghost in the Machine). The kinds of serendipitous outcomes which can result from this approach are generated by synthesis rather than analysis, not breaking the unknown into elements which are known, but synthesizing new knowledge from new perspectives and engagement.


These concerns are explored drawing upon Tomasello’s research into cooperation and cumulative knowledge; Bateson’s theory of mind in the environment; and Sennett’s discussion of problem-solving through patience and work.



Stephanie Bunn is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She has conducted extensive ethnographic and historical research into felt textile practices among high mountain Kyrgyz pastoralists in Central Asia, and more broadly of nomadic peoples across the region. Most recently, she has also been carrying out a collaborative ethno-historical study of Scottish vernacular basketry alongside contemporary Scottish basket-makers. Practice forms an important element of all of her research and she has done apprenticeships and learned many of the practical skills entailed in both her areas of study.


Stephanie has made several collections of nomadic felt textiles for museums in the UK and worked with the British Museum to curate the first ever British Museum exhibition on Central Asian nomadic textiles, Striking Tents. Her publications include Kyrgyzstan, an edited study of the work of the Kyrgyz ethnographer Klavdiya Antipina, Nomadic Felts of the World published by the British Museum Press, and www.wovencommunities.org/ the interactive website of her current research project on Scottish basketry.


Precarious Interactions: The challenges of collaboration in the anthropological film Anak-Anak Srikandi (Children of Srikandi)

Laura Coppens (University of Bern)



Audiovisual anthropologists rarely go beyond anecdotal accounts when discussing the challenges they face during the production of collaborative film projects. But would a more analytical approach to collaborative practices and the ethical dilemmas we encounter on the ground not be of great epistemological and practical benefit to our communities of practice? In this paper, I show how processes of collaborative filmmaking can be analysed ethnographically by focussing on two relatively underexplored aspects of media collaboration: the question of authorship and the ethics of payment. Reflecting on my experience of collaborative film production with Indonesian queer women and the ethical dilemmas that occurred in practice, I argue that the ideal of equal power relations between anthropologist and collaborators is impossible to achieve. The uncertainties over, what Strathern has called, the “currencies of collaboration”, and the different ways collaboration is imagined by all parties involved, makes collaborative projects a precarious, but nonetheless, rewarding undertaking. In order to give way to fresh approaches towards collaborative models of ethnographic filmmaking, we need a conceptual and methodological broadening of our long-standing collaborative practices and productively embrace crisis as much as creativity.



Laura Coppens received her PhD in social anthropology from the University of Zurich in 2014 and is currently a research assistant with a focus on media anthropology at the University of Bern. In her dissertation she investigated the phenomenon of film activism in the context of democratization and Islamization in contemporary Indonesia. Laura is currently the film review editor of the journal Visual Anthropology Review and prepares a new research and film project. Besides her work at university she is also a documentary filmmaker and film curator.


A Dangerous Matter? Research Collaborations in Post-Conflict Settings

Martha-Cecilia Dietrich (University of Bern)



In the context of violence and conflict, the word ‘collaboration’ has a myriad of meanings. To insurgents, collaborating entails revealing information to opposing parties, a shameful practice that stands for weakness and the ultimate betrayal of trust. To protect each other from collaborators, information was codified, protected, and hidden. In today’s conversations, a shadow of moral judgment hangs over those who collaborated with the enemy or turned in neighbours, family, friends, or comrades, even long after the fires have ceased.


“Collaborations are a dangerous matter, but in this case perhaps more for you than for us”, I was told by Mili, a former member of the Peruvian Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), after proposing to make a collaborative film about the ways insurgents remember the Peruvian internal conflict (1980-2000). The critical discussions about the political and ethical implications of collaborative research with people considered perpetrators of violence, with my informants as well as with colleagues in the field, led me to reflect upon the kinds of engagements anthropologists seek to elicit by engaging collaboratively with their research subjects. Is collaboration an ethical dictum or a methodological choice? Who do we choose to become our collaborators and why? Does a collaborative project require approval with our subject’s perspectives and if so, what does that mean for our work as academics? By discussing examples from my own research experience with former insurgents in Peru, in this paper I aim to engage with the particularities of collaborative research practices in post-conflict contexts.



Martha-Cecilia Dietrich was born in Vienna/Austria, where she studied Social Anthropology as an undergraduate. She then went to do an MA in Visual Anthropology and further, a University funded PhD in Anthropology with Visual Media at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology/University of Manchester. Currently she is a post-doc at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Her research interests can be located in the fields of political anthropology, gender and violence, memory and ethnographic filmmaking.


Opening and closing doors: on the possibilities of collaboration in Central Asia

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (Tübingen University)



This paper will discuss a number of contrasting experiences in collaborating with social scientists and citizens in Central Asia. These include participative film-making with young people in Kyrgyzstan, discussions on migration that fully involve migrants in Istanbul, initiatives to bring research on Central Asia to the media, and working with colleagues across the post-soviet region to promote social anthropology. I compare these experiences with participative projects in the development sector in Kyrgyzstan, and highlight the constraints that political contexts impose on collaboration.



Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix is a social anthropologist based at Tübingen University. She directs a Junior Research Group on the cultural history of water in Central Asia. She is also co-leader of a team researching the Naryn and Syr Darya rivers, supported by the Volkswagen Foundation. Recent fellowships at Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin focused on investigating ageing in Central Asia, the impact of energy policies and development projects such as dams on everyday life in the region.


Intimacy, ethnography and collaboration: attempting a reciprocal Gypsy/Roma life story.

Paloma Gay y Blasco (University of St Andrews)



This paper deals with my attempts at writing a collaborative book – more concretely, an egalitarian, reciprocal life story – with a long-term informant and friend, Liria de la Cruz, a semi-literate Gypsy/Roma street seller. Rather than trying to resolve the problems involved in producing a  collaborative life story, my aim  is to  highlight why this form of inscription is so intractable, practically and  intellectually. Using three moments in our collaboration, I ask what forms of knowledge can and cannot be produced collaboratively, and question the capacity of collaborative work to challenge the elitist nature of the anthropological enquiry.



Paloma has worked with Spanish Gitanos (Gypsies/Roma) and on international adoption, and has published on gender and sex, memory and forgetting, community-making, Pentecostalism and the internet. Her first monograph, ‘Gypsies in Madrid: Sex, Gender and the Performance of Identity’ was published in 1999 (Berg). She is also interested in the role of ethnographic writing in anthropology, and with Huon Wardle she published ‘How to Read Ethnography’ in 2007 (Routledge). She is now in the process of writing an experimental ethnography/biography with Liria de la Cruz, a long-term Gitano informant and close friend. As a preamble to this project they have published the article ‘Friendship, Anthropology’ in the journal Anthropology and Humanism (2012, vol. 37) where we argue for a collaborative and egalitarian ethnography. Paloma is also developing a collaborative project charting the experiences of Latin American immigrant women in Madrid.


Limitations and Potentials of Design Materials within Collaborative Research Practices

Wendy Gunn (University of Southern Denmark) and Wafa Said Mosleh (University of Southern Denmark)


The workshop explores the limitations and potentials of design materials to instigate cross-disciplinary research across a university’s technical, humanities and social science faculties. Our aim is to understand possibilities for wider participation within research processes and practices and to propose future directions for involving a broader grouping of peoples. During the workshop we will engage participants in the co-analysis of documentation generated through a series of open space research seminars, whereby design was the process of inquiry (2013 – ongoing at SDU Design Research). SDU Design Research, University of Southern Denmark attempts to provide a collaborative research environment, which embraces design from a set of complementary methods and methodologies. Findings from the workshop will contribute to a wider debate focusing on the affects of design materials in collaborations between anthropologists and the peoples they are carrying out research with.



Wendy Gunn is Associate Professor of Design Anthropology, SDU Design Research, Mads Clausen Institute, University of Southern Denmark. Her current research interests include: social and material relations of making and building and practices of future making. Recent publications include Design and Anthropology, Ashgate 2012, with Jared Donovan and Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, Bloomsbury 2013, with Ton Otto and Rachel Charlotte Smith.


Wafa Said Mosleh has a background in design engineering. She is currently a research assistant at SDU Design Research, Mads Clausen Institute, University of Southern Denmark. In her graduate thesis, Wafa worked with public libraries in Denmark to investigate the challenges facing public library practices, due to the incorporation of information technology. With a research emphasis on design anthropology, the aim of her thesis was to build tangible research tools that could engage teenagers in re-conceptualizing future public library practice(s). Her research interests include: limits and potentials of tangible research tools in creating continuity between past, present and future in practices of future making, engineering knowledge production and transformation of professional practices.


Amahuaca Cultural Heritage and the Question of Anthropological Collaboration

Christopher Hewlett (University of St Andrews)



The project I am working on with Amahuaca people entails the foundation of a Cultural Heritage Centre that will be located in the Native Community of San Martin on the Inuya River in the Peruvian Amazon. The idea for the Cultural Centre comes from Carlos Melendez Pino, an Amahuaca bilingual schoolteacher, who is an important figure in the community. The idea is to build on his ideas regarding a cultural centre, in collaboration with the rest of the community, to develop an appropriate space for them to express their cultural heritage. The project will also be used to discuss my previous research and explore the themes Amahuaca people find interesting and important as they address complex social, political and economic issues.


The ethnographic and historical material collected during my research for the PhD will be a component of the cultural centre, but ideally this material will not be a source of historical ‘data’, but instead the beginnings of a discussion about the relation between Amahuaca people’s ideas and those written by me and earlier anthropologists. The intention with this project is to engage Amahuaca people based on their own values and have them tell their own stories and present it in a way that will not only be relevant to them, but also be continually evolving as new ideas, interests and perspectives emerge.



Christopher Hewlett received his PhD from the University of St Andrews in 2014, and is currently affiliated with the Centre of Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies at St Andrews and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland. He is currently working on a project with Amahuaca people in the Peruvian Amazon that entails establishing a Cultural Heritage Centre in one of the communities where he carried out research. The project is funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Engagement Grant and supported by Robert Carneiro at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.


Changing the Stakes:Anthropological Collaboration Across Cultures and Disciplines

Casey High (University of Edinburgh)



This paper explores my work with linguists and Waorani people in an ongoing collaborative project to document their indigenous language in Ecuador. It describes the goals, challenges and contradictions of people with different interests and stakes in a project that has involved collecting around 120 hours of language videos, training several Waorani in transcription and translation, and archiving the videos for public use in Ecuador. While envisioned as a reciprocal and relatively egalitarian form of collaborative research in response to the concerns of Waorani communities, the project highlights the limits and risks of locating would-be “informants” or “participants” as primary stakeholders in anthropological research. As they bring their own agendas and amplified expectations to the project, collaboration presents personal, ethical and often practical challenges, sometimes subverting the research interests of anthropologists and linguists. Such collaboration creates and reveals new kinds of relationships that are themselves a complex ethnographic object. One of the consequences of this kind of collaboration across “cultures” and academic disciplines is that anthropologists come to hold a heightened awareness yet ever-decreasing control of long-standing ethical concerns with regards to the research process and its dissemination. Rather than arguing against the value of collaborative research, the paper points to how such work transforms relationships and reconfigures audiences in ways that are difficult for anthropologists and others to foresee.



Casey High is a lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. His research with Waorani communities in Amazonian Ecuador focuses on memory, violence, language and indigenous politics. He is author of Victims and Warriors: Violence, History, and Memory in Amazonian (2015) and co-editor of two collections on questions epistemology: How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge (2008) and The Anthropology of Ignorance: An Ethnographic Approach (2012). He is also an associate editor of Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.


The Man Who Almost Killed Himself: Three Modes of Collaboration

Andrew Irving (University of Manchester)



Anthropology attempts to address fundamental questions about human existence but does so by grounding these in the lived experiences of persons in different societies across the world. As such it is simultaneously a fieldwork science::documentary art (Davis 2000) that employs practical research methods in the field to generate new knowledge about social life, and then uses written texts, and to a lesser extent images, objects and recordings to communicate its theories and findings. One of the most significant events that any person, group or society can face is that of suicide: a subject of enduring social interest that raises fundamental questions about human nature, society and people’s most basic relationships with other people and the world (Staples and Widger 2012). As such suicide is not only a philosophical, medical or ethical problem but a profoundly anthropological one in its broadest sense, however ethnographic accounts of suicide are rare and the very question of what might actually constitute an “ethnography” of suicide or how anthropology might go beyond statistical analysis, media reports and discursive analysis to produce ethnographic accounts is fraught with ethical and practical pitfalls. In response to this problem, my contribution is based on three distinct but related modes of collaborative practice in order to try to understand of the mind of a man someone about to attempt suicide. The first mode concerns a notion of collaborative fieldwork that is carried out alongside informants in the field and involves identifying and defining a set of mutually negotiated research aims and objectives in which the research subjects actively shape the content and character of the research. Forming close collaborations with interested subjects in the field in order to establish areas of shared interest and concern offers practical, ethically empowering ways of researching and representing people’s experiences. In this case it explores the personal motivations, religious doubts and existential dilemmas people undergo when contemplating suicide in order to try to understand the transient, sometimes tormented, inner lifeworld of a person with suicidal intentions. The second mode of collaboration is that of writing, in which the above research was written up in the provided papers Ethnography Art and Death (2007) and Strange Distance: Towards an Anthropology of Interior Dialogue (2011). The act of writing can be seen as a form of collaboration with actual and imagined persons in which the content and character of the text is directed towards and shaped by an intended or imagined audience, including journal editors and reviewers, the academic community and institutions, strangers and even symbolic or mythical figures. For Bakhtin such an audience is the superaddressee whose actual or imagined constitution can take many forms, including “God, absolute truth, the court of dispassionate human conscience, the people, the court of history, science and so forth” (1986:126). The third mode of collaboration, which will be elaborated on and forms the main content of the presentation, is that of artistic re-enactment and adaption in the form of a theatre piece that I developed with theatre director Josh Azouz and producer Don Boyd and a cast of African actors based on the above articles. The resulting play The Man Who Almost Killed Himself was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival (Aug 7th-11th 2014), shown on BBC Arts (Aug 10th 2014), and screened nationwide at Odeon Cinemas (Aug 11th 2014).  In showing this work to theatre, broadcast and cinema audiences, I argue (following Sartre) that a distinct form of collaborative consciousness emerges that encompasses both the act of imagining and the diverse worlds the imagination brings into being between artists and audience insofar as ‘When I look at a drawing I posit in that very look a world of human intentions of which that drawing is a product [and for] the image to appear, the cooperation of my consciousness is necessary, but the artist knows this, counts on it; the artist solicits this cooperation’ (Sartre 2004 [1940]): 35).



Andrew Irving is Director of the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. His research areas include sensory perception, time, illness, death, urban anthropology and experimental methods, film and multi-media. Recent works and publications include “Whose Cosmopolitanism?” (2014: Berghahn Books), “Beyond Text: Critical Practices and Sensory Anthropology” (2015: Manchester University Press), and “The Man Who Almost Killed Himself” a play in collaboration with Theatre Director Josh Azouz that was shown on BBC Arts, at the Odeon Cinemas and the Edinburgh Festival, For a recent write up in Scientific American about his work in experimental and film and multi-media, see here: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/04/29/mrs-dalloway-in-new-york-documenting-how-people-talk-to-themselves-in-their-heads/


An early challenge of co-authorship

Kristin Kuutma (University of Tartu)



My talk will discuss collaborative anthropology as a project of co-authorship from historical perspective. My investigation focuses on the dynamics of interaction that produced Sámi ethnographies in the early twentieth century Scandinavia. I propose to examine personal experiences, relationships and conventions of anthropological practice in their historical and discursive context. Such an investigation into negotiated representations, emergent subjectivities, contestation of ways of knowing, or the politics of constituting textual representations and creating interpretive authorities suggest potential forms of co-authorship and reciprocal collaboration.



Kristin Kuutma is Professor of Cultural Research at the Institute of Cultural Research and Arts, University of Tartu, Estonia. She is the head of the UT programme of the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts. Her research and teaching focuses on cultural theory, cultural history and anthropology, ethnographic studies and knowledge production, critical studies of cultural heritage and representation. She has analysed the production of ethnographic representation in collaborative cultural mediation in her book Collaborative Representations: Interpreting the Creation of a Sámi Ethnography and a Seto Epic (Helsinki 2006). In addition to numerous articles on expressive culture, the history of ethnographic studies, on cultural heritage in the context of representation and cultural policy-making, her publications include also co-edited volumes Studies in Estonian Folkloristics and Ethnology: A Reader and Reflexive History (Tartu 2005), The Burden of Remembering: Recollections and Representations of the 20th Century (Helsinki 2009), and edited two Special Issues of the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics (2009/3(2) and 2010/4(1)), titled Cultural Heritage: Entanglements of Knowledge, Creativity and Property.


The Cosmopolitan Endeavor: staged performances and the limits of collaboration and creativity

Stavroula Pipyrou (University of St Andrews)



The presentation is based on my latest collaboration in choreographing the opera “Iphigenia in Tauris” by Christoph Willibald Gluck. I have closely worked with the director of the project and have inserted folk dance patterns from the region of Crimea. For the purposes of the opera these patterns have been adapted in terms of music and style to suit the opera scenes and the bodies of the performers. Not being professional dancers, performers were given the liberty to experiment with movement and shape an aesthetic performance that would develop according to spatio-temporal qualities and not according to a pre-determined choreographic structure. More broadly, staged performances have been characterized by the homogenous repetition of dancing patterns and their precise refashioning as the outcome of a strict schooling of the body to aesthetically reproduce the director’s imagery. Such aesthetic outcomes are based on a top-down visioning and execution of performance involving strict direction and, even in cases of improvisation, leave no space for collaboration between directors and performers.


By engaging with the possibility of inserting unstable variables into our performance we radically question inclusion into a pre-determined directorial context that usually does not allow collaboration in an ontological sense. This project is the synergetic and experiential outcome of performance where directors, anthropologists and performers co-shape an aesthetic and the political outcome, thus embracing the challenges of such collaboration. The presentation targets two fundamental questions: 1) In the case of amateur performers, what are the limits generated by fear due to the lack of precise direction? How do performers think about movement in relation to their bodies and their character in the opera? 2) Is the collaboration really egalitarian or do directors still hold the position of power, thus shaping critically the aesthetic outcome?



Stavroula Pipyrou has worked with minorities and refugees in Italy and Greece on topics of performance, governance, civil society and relatedness. Her first monograph, Fearless Governance: Grecanici minority politics and violence in South Italy (University of Pennsylvania Press), looks at the manner that a minority on the fringes of Europe finds synergetic routes to governance. My interest in collaboration is in the experiential, dialogical and pedagogical outcome of performance where directors, anthropologists and performers co-shape an aesthetic and political outcome thus embracing the challenges of such collaboration. My latest collaboration is with Jane Pettergee and Michael Downes (Department of Music, St Andrews) in choreographing the opera “Iphigenia in Tauris” by Christoph Willibald Gluck.