Recent experimental collaborations in the United Kingdom have brought artists and scientists together in order to explore new possibilities for research. There is a particular sense of timeliness felt by organizers and participants of these projects that, in part, mirrors concerns about the trajectory and implications of scientific research more generally in society. Faith in the transformative power of technology is combined with explicit concerns over how much control humanity is able to exert over the dynamic of technological development. Highlighting an analogy with Papua New Guinean ritual, I suggest that the scheme discussed here is one of a number of ways in which people attempt to take control over powerful forces beyond their everyday experience—in this case, the apparently 'runaway' character of technological development and the implications that this development has for social change. The article is framed by a discussion of the role of social-scientific evaluation in the scheme.
Art-Science Collaborations and a Technological Culture
Dilemmas in an Ethnographic Study of Health Policy Makers
Serena Heckler and Andrew Russell
In this article we report on collaborative, ethnographic research investigating the first regional tobacco control office in the U.K. and some of the dilemmas it poses. The ideal of collaboration is fully realisable in this setting, where the participants are both eager and qualified to contribute meaningfully to the project. However, the fulfilment of such an ideal poses its own problems. For example, the educational level and professional expertise of some participants allows them to fully engage with the theoretical framework to the extent that they could, if allowed, rewrite manuscripts. Other issues are more subtle, such as how to establish appropriate boundaries between the researcher and the tobacco control office staff. We suggest that the collaborative research model presupposes differentials of power, education and culture between researchers and participants that do not necessarily apply in the case of research in such settings. Where these differentials are lacking, the field is open for dominant participants to assume `undue influence' over the research project. To prevent this, we have reinstated boundaries between object and subject that were originally dissolved as part of the collaborative model. As a result, our project is maintaining a delicate balance between the conflicting aims of objectivity and collaboration.
Reflections on Power, Collaboration, and Ethnography in the Anthropology of Policy
This article constitutes a pragmatic consideration of how to orchestrate access to 'powerful' individuals and a theoretical reflection on what efforts to negotiate access reveal about the anthropologist's subterranean assumptions about power, collaboration and ethnographic data. Too frequently, powerful actors and the contemporary settings they inhabit appear to be obstacles to ethnographic research. In contrast, I propose that we explore the ways in which working with powerful actors can enhance, rather than inhibit, the possibilities of anthropological data collection. In this article, I present several examples from my field research in the Mexican government to show how the ethnographic encounter can be constructive of the political process, not jut an appendage to it. By directing attention to the ways in which our actual research practices (and not just our findings) intervene in the political space, we can re-orient our expectations about data and the ontology of anthropological expertise.
Emergent Distinctionsin an Interdisciplinary Collaboration
This article analyzes ethnographic material from several art and science research collaborations that were funded under a single funding scheme in the UK between 2003 and 2006. The material illustrates the way that distinctions between aesthetic value and utility value emerged during the interactions of the participants. It outlines how conceptual positions about the contrasting value of art and of science shaped their collaborative practice. I relate key distinctions that emerged in their statements to the parallel division in intellectual property law between copyright and patent. The intention is to show how seemingly natural and given differences that inform both law and disciplinary practice are generated and regenerated in a manner that divides persons, things, and disciplines in the very practices that these categories reciprocally inform and shape.
Collaboration, consensus, and the social life of corporate social responsibility
In recent years transnational corporations have become major players in the development arena. The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) elevates corporations as leaders in a new orthodoxy of business-led development that promotes empowerment through “the market” as the panacea for global poverty. This vision has recruited support from disparate actors, turning combatants into collaborators. This article is based on thirteen months of multisited fieldwork, tracking the performance of CSR through the circuit of conventions and policy forums that constitute the social life of CSR. I argue that by claiming the confluence of doing good business and doing good, commitment to the market logic of maximisation is not only maintained, but endowed with a moral legitimacy and celebrated as the elusive win-win solution for which the development industry continues to search.
Contemporary Walking Collaborations in Landscape, Art and Poetry
Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker
This is a jointly authored practice-led article by a poet and artist who have produced place-based work based on slow-walking practices for exhibition and publication since 2011. It is developed out of close reading of our own work, our key consideration being whether and how collaborative walking and art together might be conceived of as counter-cultural. We consider our walking inheritance, from the Romantics, via Thoreau to mid-century painters and poets and contemporary ecocritical theorists including Doreen Massey, Yi-fu Tuan, Deirdre Heddon and Richard Kerridge. We trace changes in theoretical and artistic approaches to walking, perception and making art together. We reference other contemporary poet and artist pairings including Frances Presley and Irma Irsara and Thomas A. Clark and Laurie Clark. Finally, we consider how walking and working collaboratively in different artistic media might produce work that challenges and affects viewers in gallery and book spaces.
Into the New Century
George E. Marcus
Classic conditions of fieldwork research, to which anthropology remains committed, are difficult to establish today within far-reaching projects of neoliberal economy, governance and philanthropy. The forms of collaboration on which these projects insist, and those that ethnography encourages for its own research purposes, must be reconciled. On the bargains or adjustments that anthropology makes with neoliberal projects, within which it establishes scenes of fieldwork, depends its capacity to produce critique - its primary agenda since the 1980s. These issues are what are at stake in the widespread current discussions of, and hopes for, an 'engaged' anthropology.
George E. Marcus
This article engages the current challenges that the ecology of designing and implementing ethnographic research today presents to the still powerful culture of method in anthropology, especially as it is manifested in the production of apprentice graduate dissertation research by anthropologists in the making. The Anthropology of Public Policy defines a recent and emerging terrain of anthropological research that challenges the culture of fieldwork/ethnographic method at the core of anthropology's practice and identity. Thus, what might emerge, in the author's view, is not a new or adjusted handbook of method, but a more far-reaching discussion of how the very function of ethnographic research shifts in response to this challenge in terms of collaboration and pedagogy.
Why diversity matters in the global political economy
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
What if those translations across difference that characterize global supply chains were to inspire a model of power and struggle in the contemporary political economy? In contrast to the unified Empire offered by Hardt and Negri, supply chains show us how attention to diversity-and the transformative collaborations it inspires-is key to both identifying what is wrong with the world today and imagining what we can do about it. This article describes a politics in which transformative collaborations across difference form the radical heart of possibility. Nonhumans are involved, as well as people with starkly different backgrounds and agendas. Love might be transformed.
Making Object Biographies
Margareta von Oswald and Verena Rodatus
In Germany, the new cultural center Humboldt Forum (to open in 2019) has become a major site of debate. It will include the contested collections of both the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contributed to the negotiation of the role of colonial legacies and their reverberances on contemporary Germany. We took those contestations as a point of departure for the exhibition Object Biographies (2015), part of the program Humboldt Lab Dahlem designed to experiment with innovative displays for the Humboldt Forum. Here we reexamine our research collaboration with the Beninese art historian Romuald Tchibozo that was part of the exhibition. His call for the “decolonization of research” was the central guideline in our museum practice aiming for cosmo-optimistic futures. We argue that focusing on processes and questions engaged by the exhibition project can transform contested museum spaces to enable negotiations on ownership, representation, and memory politics.