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Accepted Paper:

Analysing assumptions: power, precarity, and collaborative 'writing up’  


Lucy Pickering (The University of Glasgow)
Lazaaro Mujumbusi (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

What does it mean to write ethnography collaboratively? What responsibilities and vulnerabilities come with writing together in research projects that cross (post)colonial power lines? This paper reflects on the assumptions, errors and occasional successes of life after fieldwork in a such project.

Paper long abstract:

What does it mean to write up ethnography collaboratively? How is this process mediated by personalities and power dynamics, by temporal and geographical distance, and by technological inequalities? How is it shaped by different ideas about what it is to collaborate, to write, to analyse, or even what counts as ‘data’? How are these points of difference identified and navigated – and can they ever be satisfactorily resolved? This paper tries to begin to answer these questions through critical reflection on the process of writing in a recent project focused on using ethnography to better understand what, if anything, can be done to reduce schistosomiasis transmission in rural Uganda. The part of the project focused on here primarily entails the post-fieldwork relations between three people: one tenured UK anthropologist and two Ugandan Research Assistants who work as professional data collectors, trained to undergraduate level in the ‘social sciences’. All three have wider responsibilities within and beyond the project to the PI, funder, employing institutions and more. Two of the three are precariously employed, and thus vulnerable to the harms, as well as the opportunities, that come with the ‘capacity building’ component of the project. Collaborative research – from design to writing – entails multiple, sometimes contrasting ethical choices. Ethical research practice requires reflection, even when it is uncomfortable. This reflexive paper seeks to do some of this uncomfortable work in order to think through the responsibilities and corresponding vulnerabilities that come with writing up in ‘collaborative’ international research projects.

Panel Speak02a
After Fieldwork: exploring responsibilities and vulnerabilities of ethnographic research I