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P138


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Collaborative Futures in Practice: Methods and pedagogies for imagining and doing anthropology together [PechaKucha] 
Convenors:
AJ Hilton (University of Arizona)
Alessandro Lutri (University of Catania)
Angela Storey (University of Louisville)
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Format:
Panels
Sessions:
Friday 24 July, 14:00-16:00 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

How we "do" anthropology changes when we do so together. Approaches to collaboration in anthropology continue to gain traction and often cross-pollinate between methods and pedagogies. This Pecha Kucha panel invites short presentations that foreground collaborative anthropological experiences.

Long Abstract

How we "do" anthropology changes when we do so together. This panel explores how collaborative approaches to ethnography push us to craft futures of scholarship and practice that enlist multiple ways of doing and becoming together. We focus on both methods and pedagogies in order to highlight ways in which collaborative praxes extend across, and can link together, research and teaching. Collaboration can take many forms within methodological frames, from community-based participatory approaches that reimagine relationships and definitions of research (Austin 2004; Anthony et al 2010) to engaged or militant scholarship that reworks ideas of voice and representation (Juris 2007; Alonso Bejarano et al 2019). Pedagogical work can also embrace collaborative modes of knowledge production and engagement, including through de-canonizing curricula (Buell et al 2019), progressive practices of citation (Guarasci et al 2018), and an embrace of uncertainty in the classroom (Hundle 2017).

This panel asks: how does collaboration within methodological and pedagogical approaches necessarily imagine new kinds of sociality? How do such approaches challenge us to both change our current approaches and to pre-figure an anthropological future in which the discipline is shaped by new actors and new arrangements of action? In order to highlight the breadth of collaborative possibilities, this panel invites proposals for short, Pecha Kucha-style empirically-based presentations focused upon a single approach to collaborative anthropological praxis. Presentations should emphasize a single method, project, pedagogy, teaching approach, or research outcome that foregrounds collaborative scholarship and practice.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Mariana Rios Sandoval (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

Through the participatory making of a film, a group of neighbours, anthropologist included, tell the story of how a suburban town of industrial past has decided to turn a brownfield into a haven for many species, including humans.

Paper long abstract:

How can we create conditions to sustain life in heavily polluted places? This is the question asked by the inhabitants of a small town of the French banlieue that has decided to turn a brownfield into a haven for plants, animals, humans and hope. Through the participatory making of a film, a heterogeneous group of neighbours, including myself, piece together a story of the brownfield's repurposing. Amidst concrete and ring roads, and the precarity of life in the poorest department of continental France, this piece of land emerges as a space torn between its industrial past and its uncertain future, but also as a space of possibility, for those on both sides of the camera. By making this film we learn along the way: about our city, the audiovisual language, and the power of collective storytelling. The participatory filming process is fertile ground. Reflections about nature and society and the fiction of their separation are contagious, and happen as well on both sides of the camera. Other divides are unsettled too: those between disciplines, expert and lay knowledge, artists and non-artists, the researcher and the ones being researched, participant observation and co-creation. By the time I give this presentation the making of this film will still be ongoing. I would like to use this opportunity to share bits of our film and our process, with its challenges and breakthroughs, with the aim of cross-pollinating conversations between different ends of the research endeavor, thus unsettling yet another divide.

Author:

Cordula Weisskoeppel (Bremen University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will reflect on collaborative practises when organizing postcolonial walking-tours in hybrid groups. How is shared knowledge produced by these on-site encounters, and what kind of further agency is initiated by the participants?

Paper long abstract:

In order to experiment with methodologies of decolonisation in the public space, we started to conduct walking-tours in my home town Bremen in Northern Germany.

Since then I try to reflect more systematically on what is evoked when walking together in certain environments and contexts. The paper will focus in particular on hybrid groups, this means participants from different educational backgrounds, diverse ages and different professions. Why has it become so productive to walk together, sharing first impressions, sensual experiences, thoughts and imaginations? What kind of polyvocal knowledge was produced on-site, and what kind of processes were initiated, e.g. to become more engaged in the public debate, or to think about strategies of visual documentation and representation.

Using two walk-shops conducted in Bremen, Germany and Windhoek, Namibia in 2019, I will demonstrate the different settings and designs, the diverse processes and dimensions of reflection, and the imaginary potential when dealing with fragments of remembrance of particular stories produced by postcolonial entanglements.

Author:

Imogen Baylis (Coventry University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation reflects on the methodological and epistemological implications of a collaboration between three action-oriented community groups and the ethnographer. It suggests that collaboration requires a sociality of improvisation in which roles and purpose are continuously negotiated.

Paper long abstract:

This pecha kucha shares reflections on fieldwork taking place in three sites across London. The ethnographer works with collaborators in resident-led community groups: together they devise and conduct research into the groups' communities, as they decide on the best form of future action, and reflect on the impact of past initiatives. The collaboration is part of a broader research project: a sociological analysis of how the groups work together to engage in collective social action.

This presentation will examine how such a collaboration necessitates both methodological and thus epistemic flexibility as the collaboration unfolds and, through the process, the ethnographic relational encounter, and research focus, move in new directions. Such a process produces an ethnographic sociality of uncertainty and improvisation; ethnographer and collaborators work together not only to devise the groups' research, but also to continuously curate their relationship, in each interaction asking, whose questions guide us here?

In such a formation, the role of the anthropologist is in flux: no longer seeking only to know, but now, also, to do. Such an endeavour opens new anthropological horizons, as the anthropologist works with others to design projects which have grown from a 'need to do' rather than a 'need to know'. This can increase possibilities for collaboration with civil society, and raise the impact of ethnography/ers both in terms of accountability to our participant-collaborators and to our institutions.

Authors:

Anja Hiddinga (Unversity of Amsterdam)
Beyond hearing. Cultures Overlooked (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

In a mixed deaf and hearing team we co-create ethnographic knowledge about deaf people by deaf people, and try to expand both authorship, and academic training and socialisation of deaf students. The presentation focuses on (visual) data from a project about cultural orientation of deaf youth.

Paper long abstract:

The history of Deaf people in Europe is characterised by their suppression by the hearing world, dramatically exemplified in the prohibition of signed languages in deaf education until far into the 20th century. Despite the rise of a Deaf emancipation movement in recent decades, demanding recognition as a linguistic and cultural minority, deaf people's social position is only slowly changing. Sign Language of the Netherlands for example is still not officially recognised by the Dutch government. Such policies and attitudes result in continuing stigmatisation of deaf people and have major implications for accessibility of higher education. Only recently have the first deaf social science students graduated from Dutch universities.

Qualitative research in the social sciences - traditionally primarily based on spoken and written language - has been a major hurdle for native signers. Not only has this resulted in deaf people's relative absence as scholars in anthropology, but also in the meagre representation of deaf people's lives in ethnographic work.

In our projects we work and publish as a mixed deaf and hearing team. Goals are the co-creation of ethnographic knowledge about deaf people by deaf people, expanding both authorship, and the academic training and socialisation of deaf students. We develop new methods (mostly visual), explore new forms of interaction with informants (e.g. theatre performance) and language interpretation. Our presentation will discuss some implications of our communal effort, focused on an empirical research project on the cultural orientation of deaf and hard of hearing youth in the Netherlands.

Author:

Justine Conte (York University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the act of sharing personal histories through a lens of felt experience. It considers how memories of the past can shape futures, and how making this a collective practice facilitates an empathetic consideration of others and the possibility of imagining collective futures.

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to explore how confessional storytelling can be employed as a means of affective communication that addresses felt social divisions and fosters an engagement with a collective imagination. Confessional storytelling is a mode of communicating 'true', lived, personal experiences to a live audience and has recently surged in popularity thanks to radio programs such as The Moth and The Story Corps. Based on ethnographic research done with live storytelling communities in Toronto, Canada, I will explore the ways in which both telling and receiving personal stories constitutes a radical act of making oneself 'open to' collective imagining. I will also interrogate how the idea of liveness facilitates the transference of affective memory (Stanislavsky 1989, Cvetkovich 2003, Schneider 2011) in ways that can create spaces for communal 're-membering' (Stewart 1996:7) of personal pasts.

This study draws on performance ethnography scholarship that interrogates the role of theater in fostering social change (Kazubowski-Houston 2011). It examines the mechanics of a space where community members can co-perform each other's memories as a collective form of worldmaking. It is a tentative and open-ended look at a specific set of circumstances that allow not only for communication, but also for the possibility to better understand how and why we might, together, imagine a future that is built upon the stories from our pasts. In particular, it considers how performance's liveness and potential subversion of temporalities might contribute to such collective imaginings.

Authors:

Emily Heying (College of Saint BenedictSaint Johns University)
Megan Sheehan (College of St BenedictSt John's University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, we detail a mixed methods approach to address campus food insecurity at a U.S.-based college. While collaboration brings practical challenges, we argue that applied collaborative research endeavors afford a wide-angle lens through which we might better address entrenched problems.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, we detail a mixed methods collaboration to address campus food insecurity at a U.S.-based college. Our team consists of an anthropologist, a nutritionist, and a group of student researchers from varied disciplines. This applied project responds to institutional interest in developing initiatives to help students who are at high risk of food insecurity. Emerging survey data from universities throughout the U.S. suggests that nearly one third of students experience some degree of food insecurity, and data collected on our campus is in line with national statistics. For this project, data collection spanned three years and included three rounds of a structured questionnaire (n=approximately 500 students each semester) as well as in-depth, semi-structured interviews (n=96). Statistically-significant trends from the quantitative data were considered in the construction of the interview guide. In interviews, we asked students to reflect upon the ways in which they access food, their understandings of meal options, and their strategies to cope with food insecurity. Here, we argue for the transformative possibilities of joint methodological and pedagogical collaborations. Moreover, engaging in an applied research paradigm enables a further educational component, as key stakeholders were invited to see the ways that disciplinary approaches could generate complementary data, thus facilitating more informed decisions when designing solutions. While working across many levels of collaborative relationships brings practical challenges, we argue that collaborative research endeavors afford a wider-angle lens through which we might better address the entrenched problems facing the communities in which we work.

Author:

Yonatan N. Gez (Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut)

Paper short abstract:

I will share experiences from a collective, interdisciplinary fieldwork experience in Kenya (ECRIS), which was conducted in the framework of a Franco-Swiss research project on self-accomplishment and local morality in East Africa (SALMEA).

Paper long abstract:

Collective research in the social sciences often requires grappling with a variety of disciplinary, thematic, and cultural-linguistic differences. In mid-2019, a group of about 20 scholars embarked on a Franco-Swiss research project titled Self-Accomplishment and Local Moralities in East Africa (SALMEA). Early in the project, as part of its team-building efforts, the group engaged in a week-long collective fieldwork in the small town of Nandi Hills in Kenya, which had the intentionally delicate thematic focus of death and burials. The collective fieldwork was designed based on principles outlined by French political anthropologist J-P Olivier de Sardan (1995) and referred to as ECRIS (Enquête collective rapide d'identification des conflits et des groupes stratégiques). The ECRIS approach considers fieldwork as a dynamic learning process, typically involves a multiplicity of sources, and underlines interpretative clashes and misunderstandings as valuable learning opportunities. While drawing on the anthropological literature, the ECRIS approach is suitable for interdisciplinary work—as, indeed, was in our case.

In my Pecha Kucha talk, I will present Project SALMEA's ECRIS fieldwork experience, focusing on both the theoretical rationale and the experience itself, including successive stages of data analysis. I will touch on questions of disciplinary complementarity, intercultural research sensitivity, insider/outsider dynamics, and serendipity in the field, as well as modes of collective data interpretation and the challenges of data privacy protection. I will conclude by sharing images from Project SALMEA's online blog, where our team is currently preparing to post results from our ECRIS.

Author:

Angela Storey (University of Louisville)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation explores a four-year project in teaching collaboratively with undergraduate students, asking how the creation of spaces that highlight mutuality, autonomy, and responsibility might reshape anthropological approaches to learning.

Paper long abstract:

This Pecha Kucha presentation explores a four-year program in collaborative teaching with undergraduate students at the University of Louisville (Kentucky, U.S) that is predicated upon seeing students as responsible actors within their own learning processes (Weimer 2013) and as co-creators of learning spaces and curricula (Cook-Sather 2019; Lubicz-Nawrocka 2019). The Peer Educator program brings together students who have successfully completed an introductory cultural anthropology course and who elect to join a subsequent class focused on pedagogy, lesson planning, and facilitation. Peer Educators create and coordinate lessons for peers in general education courses, offering a chance for students to hear explanations of concepts and apply learning to case studies within a non-hierarchical space. Peer Educators report expanded skills in facilitation, public speaking, and problem-solving; improved content knowledge; and new perspectives on their wider courses. They also develop a sense of solidarity and mutual aid within the small, collaborative classes, which results in feelings of validation, support, and growth. This presentation explains the foundations of the program, the impacts on student learning, and the possibilities of collaborative pedagogies for re-imagining anthropological praxis around teaching and learning. Building from this case study, I ask what it might mean to radically reframe teaching practice within the neoliberal academy (Nosterman & Pusey 2012) and to identify anthropological pedagogies of alterity.

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