Accepted Paper:

Living a collaborative life  


Des Fitzgerald (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shifts studies of collaboration from a bureaucratic focus on practices, and, drawing on feminist theory, re-thinks collaboration as a kind of inter-species relation; living a collaborative life, I argue, thus means learning to bear the conjoined intimacy and negativity of living-together.

Paper long abstract:

There has been much attention to the politics and pragmatics of interdisciplinary collaboration lately, and especially to the shifting topoi of collaboration between social scientists and life scientists- with some even proposing a 'collaborative turn' in STS, medical anthropology and sociology, and allied practices. This development (desired or otherwise) has a complex and varied genealogy: it is associated with a postgenomic turn to social and environmental life within some parts of the biological sciences; but also with a bureaucratic shift away from disciplines in the structures of university and research management.

This development has produced a range of empirical accounts of collaboration (Viseu, 2015; Balmer et al, 2015; Callard and Fitzgerald, 2015). In this paper, I build on these stories. But I also move beyond a tendency, in this genre, towards lamentation, and a general interest in tactics for improved relation. Drawing on contemporary feminist theory (Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Wilson, and Sara Ahmed), I theorize collaboration as neither an apparatus nor a practice, but as a form of life, and as an inter-species relation. I argue that that this displaces the image of collaboration as a machine in need of fixing, and fixes attention, instead, on the conjoined intimacy and negativity of living-together. Living a collaborative life, I argue, is not about making better practices, but of taking seriously the ethics of shared living - of understanding how that living becomes bearable, when it is so endlessly structured by inseparable relations of joy, frustration, envy, excitement, and annoyance.

Panel T059
Making Worlds: Feminist STS and everyday technoscience