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Improvisation in ethnographic collaboration: a methodological commitment to change
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.
Collaborative Futures in Practice: Methods and pedagogies for imagining and doing anthropology together [PechaKucha]