Collaborative Ethnography, Interdisciplinarity and Local Publics
(Indiana University Indianapolis)
Paper short abstract:
Collaborative anthropology is one response to the call to make Anthropology more relevant to a broader public. In this paper, I illustrate several community collaborative projects that reached beyond disciplinary boundaries to utilize a range of methodologies intended to respond to the needs of particular communities or "local publics."
Paper long abstract:
Collaborative ethnography, as defined by Luke Eric Lassiter, is "a very specific kind of ethnography that builds on the cooperative relationships already present in the ethnographic research process… and endeavors to engender texts that are more readable, relevant, and applicable to local communities of ethnographic collaborators (i.e. local publics)." Collaborative ethnography has emerged as one increasingly popular strategy for involving students in local ethnographic research projects and for enacting new expectations for carrying out what many now refer to as "public anthropology." Working with what Lassiter calls "local publics" involves not only making anthropological methods and insights "user-friendly"; it also involves developing interdisciplinary strategies, including archival work, mapping and various uses of technology, in order to provide communities with products that are accessible and useful to them, in addition to utilizing those "traditional" methodologies that are the hallmark of cultural anthropology. In addition, the products we produce with our students now need no longer be strictly defined as "texts." In this paper, I discuss several community collaborative projects I have carried out, working with students in my home city of Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition to illustrating how other disciplinary perspectives and methodologies contributed to the making of such ethnographic projects, I also discuss how those scholars were, in turn, influenced by their exposure to anthropology and ethnographic methods. Lastly, I give attention to how the "local publics" involved with each of these projects responded to the work we produced beyond the boundaries of Anthropology.