Anthropologists studying artistic, scientific or urban sites have refunctioned ethnography through modes of engagement that could be termed experimental and/or collaborative. Could these collaborative experiments in the field offer new conditions for the production of anthropological knowledge?
In the past decades, anthropology has shifted from its traditional naturalistic mode with the 'been-there-done-that' rhetoric of immersive fieldwork to new modes of ethnographic engagement that have transformed the anthropological project. We would like to focus on a cluster of modes of field engagement that we call 'collaboration/experiment.' The articulation of such a mode could be traced back to para-ethnographies carried out in contemporary expert settings where anthropologists find themselves obliged to reconsider the scope of their epistemic practices, the outcomes and types of representation and the kind of relationships they might establish in the field. In those settings, the subjects involved can no longer be treated as 'informants' but as 'collaborators' in a gesture that surely 'refunctions ethnography' (Holmes and Marcus 2005).
Drawing on these insights, we want to invite ethnographic projects developed in artistic, scientific, urban and experimental sites that could describe their ethnographic mode of engagement in experimental and/or collaborative terms (Marcus 2013). We aim to explore what does it mean for an ethnography to be experimental and collaborative? What might the methodological, epistemic and relational transformations of such collaboration/experiments be? How are relations in the field articulated in these collaborative/experimental ethnographies? And finally, how could collaborative experiments in the field make us think of more experimental forms of fieldwork collaboration? We believe that paying attention to the contemporary contours of ethnography as 'collaboration/experiment' might offer us the possibility of exploring new conditions for the production of anthropological knowledge.