Reviewed by: Association for Feminist Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Science
Secondary Theme: The Political
Collaborative ethnography often refers to the practice of involving the subjects of one’s research in the planning, data collection, analysis and/or writing processes of ethnographic research (Lassiter 2005). Within the recent “collaborative turn” in anthropology, such inclusion has been seen largely as a response to the call to present multiple perspectives, let people speak in their own voices, and engage in political discourse from a more connected place (Holmes & Marcus 2008). There have been many discussions within the last few decades around the value, ethics, and methods of collaborations in the field and co-authorship with participants and people outside the academy. However, co-authorship among ethnographers or with students has received less critical examination. Academic collaborations and co-authorship consist of different power dynamics, methodologies, issues of representation, and forms of knowledge production. Indeed, co-authorship - specifically within cultural anthropology - often takes a backseat to single authorship.
For this roundtable, we posit that co-authorship, specifically among those in the academy, should be continuously reexamined as a powerful and exciting piece of the broader collaborative turn in anthropology that extends feminist approaches to research and writing. Co-authored pieces can present and integrate multiple perspectives while providing another layer of peer review and interpretation. The process can allow authors to deepen their understanding of their material through engagement and discussion, while pushing them to be clearer and more inclusive in their writing. Furthermore, co-authorship can be an enjoyable and fulfilling process, and can strengthen bonds between authors that may lead to additional opportunities for writing, research, and presentation.
Feminist scholars have increasingly called for the need to recognize multiple perspectives and to value inclusion in academic research and writing. Yet despite the potential contributions of co-authorship, it continues to carry a stigma within academic cultural anthropology. This stigma and the challenges academic co-authors face are feminist issues in that they impact women in specific ways (Kochan & Mullen 2010). Recent studies have found that women are more negatively affected by co-authorship than men (Sarsons 2015). Such inequalities must be considered in relationship to broader inequalities in academia.
This roundtable invites discussion on the role of collaboration in ethnographic research and writing, particular in regards to co-authorship among academics and anthropologists. We hope to interrogate the image of the lone ethnographer, and to question anthropology’s stayed vision of what kind of writing “counts.” We agree with Dána-Ain Davis (2016) that, “[c]ollaboration is one way to upend antagonistic research practices and neoliberal impulses that privatize knowledge production, pushing aside social justice,” while also recognizing its challenges. Further, we ask in what ways are collaboration and co-authorship gendered in the academy and how might we change this? We welcome case studies, practical advice and successful strategies for collaboration and co-authorship (such as listing names alphabetically, changing tenure expectations for solo authorship, etc.), as well as stories of the challenges of collaboration or co-authorship. More broadly, we ask: why should co-authorship matter in anthropology and how can its importance become more widely recognized?