Accepted paper:

'Interdisciplinary' collaborations and productions


Isabel Shaw

Paper short abstract:

Taking the research process as its focus, this paper discusses the methodological and ethical tensions that emerge from participation in an interdisciplinary collaborative project, and the implications this has for shaping ethnographic practice and knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I reflect on my participation in an interdisciplinary collaborative project between a national art museum and a UK university, working as a researcher conducting an ethnographic study of cultural diversity policy within the collaborating art museum. Focusing on the research process, I discuss tensions that transpired during fieldwork that shaped the production of ethnographic practice, relations, and knowledge. Collaborative projects challenge the 'individualist aesthetic of ethnography' (Marcus 2008) as research teams with diverse professional knowledge, practices, and networks, seek to collaboratively produce and distribute knowledge to diverse audiences. The discursive potential, frequently promoted by projects and funding bodies, for collaborative research to offer 'innovation' (Strathern 2006) and a 'democratization' of research, hide ambiguities in the research process. These 'buzz' words fail to capture the challenging processes often involved in working within an interdisciplinary team, particularly with members who are also 'subjects' of study. I turn my attention to this invisible work by discussing my experience of working on a collaborative research project that became enrolled into the wider organizing praxis, policy-making apparatus, and power-relations of my fieldwork site - the art museum. This raises questions about the potential for collaborative projects to intervene in, and co-produce, their subjects. Secondly, I provide my account of an attempt to create collective and distributed knowledge amongst members of the research team with often competing professional practices. I conclude by outlining important ethical and methodological implications for conducting ethnographic practice as part of collaborative work.

panel G15
Re-thinking collaboration: between research and socio-political interventions