EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

The praxis of collaborative ethnography: knowledge production with social movements
Location U6-38
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Aurora Alvarez Veinguer (University of Granada ) email
  • Gunther Dietz (Universidad Veracruzana) email
  • Alberto Arribas (University of the Witwatersrand) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel will discuss and analyse the complexities, outcomes, challenges and hopes of collaborative research. We will move away from normative and/or celebratory accounts of collaboration, trying to thicken the ongoing debates by critically exploring actual forms of collaborative engagement.

Long Abstract

Collaboration has become central to the re-imagination and redefinition

of our practices. On wide terms, the notion of collaborative research

refers to a particular type of fieldwork encounter based on designing,

implementing and sustaining joint projects with our research subjects.

Within that framework, collaborative engagement with social movements

allows us to advance the analysis of contemporary collective action; it

is relevant for the activists by integrating their own insights,

interests and questions into the research; and addresses salient debates

in Anthropology, problematizing traditional forms of knowledge

production and validation, and locating epistemic and methodological

questions at the centre of our projects. However, while recognizing its

potentialities, it should not be glossed over that collaboration is

always tensed by a multiplicity of heterogeneous demands that come from

both the academic field and the research subjects, and that have to be

continuously addressed and renegotiated. In this sense, and in order to

deepen our understanding of the praxis and politics of collaborative

ethnography, it is necessary to move away from normative and/or

celebratory accounts of collaboration, and to thicken the ongoing

debates by critically exploring actual forms of collaborative engagement.

In that sense, this panel is aimed at discussing collaborative research

experiences and projects developed along with social movement

organizations worldwide, analysing its complexities and outcomes, its

challenges and hopes. Given our own locations in South Africa, Mexico

and Spain, we are particularly interested in considering proposals

coming from the Global South, understanding the Global South as epistemic locations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


We are comfortable with utopian thinking: collaborative ethnography as a starting point for a counterhegemonic anthropological practice

Author: Angélica Cabezas Pino (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

Using the texts of the Latin-American authors Orlando Fals Borda and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, and my own experience as a researcher, I argue that collaboration in Anthropology must be radicalized as a counter-hegemonic method that can challenge societal fascism and post-colonialist oppression.

Long Abstract

It´s time for a provocation.

Institutionalised anthropology and its hegemonic depictions must be left behind, as the only way to dismantle colonialist and imperialist discourses. For this, collaborative anthropological practice must be at the heart of this new process of knowledge production. We must act critically and by this -as José Martí- said "The (symbolical) north must be left behind".

Collaborative ethnography must be confronted as an everyday practice of trust and deep engagement that walks away from the bureaucracy of knowledge, to break "societal fascism", as called by Santos. We, anthropologist must go beyond our comfort zone and well known practices, to engage with an ethnography of shared knowledge production, with a work that do not operate from hierarchies in order to not reproduce well-known paths of knowledge articulation.

Relying on practices that modern anthropology standardised, our discipline usually takes off from very similar starting points in epistemological, theoretical and political terms. By attempting a deep collaborative ethnography we are arguing that knowledge does not follow a vertical direction but a horizontal and multi-vectorial logic.

I propose to articulate a practice of anthropology from the South, in an Anthropology that engage deeply with the challenge of creating knowledge together. For this I analyse one example of these Epistemologies of the South, by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Participatory Action research by Orlando Fals-Borda; and finally I consider some of the strengths and weaknesses of my own work in Chile.

Political formation of the Regional Indigenous Organization of Valle del Cauca (ORIVAC) for participation in post agreement scenarios in Colombia.

Authors: Carlos Andrés Tobar Tovar (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali)  email
Sulay Henao Restrepo (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar)  email

Short Abstract

We will present the training process for political participation of the ORIVAC in the post agreement in Colombia. The post agreement is a political scenario that arises as a result of negotiations between the government and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Long Abstract

This communication addresses the coaching process leading to the completion of the training program for political participation of the ORIVAC, in scenarios of public debate organized by the State in the department of Valle del Cauca. The researcher's goal was to implement a methodology for the preparation of documents that will express the needs of the organization, and also alternatives for achieving the process through dialogue and consensus with universities and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute.

From the perspective of the participatory action research, we described the development of an ethnographic experience to accompany the process, from studying the reach of public policy on differential attention at the Êbêra Chamí communities linked to ORIVAC. This organization represents the indigenous social movement in the region and emerged as a result of the 1991 Constitution which was passed in Colombia as a multiethnic and multicultural country.

Our presentation describes the possibilities and limitations of the encounter between the state and the organization, from the expectations of cultural and economic recognition that indigenous groups face on the post agreement.

We consider that this presentation helps to glimpse one of the roles of Colombian anthropologists in support for social movements, that seek to provide from their horizons of understanding to the discussion about the end of the armed conflict in Colombia.

Democratizing society and research practice: starting to collaborate in an ethnographic experience with the "Stop Evictions" movement in Spain.

Authors: Antonia Olmos Alcaraz (University of Granada)  email
Luca Sebastiani (Universidad de Granada)  email
Ariana S. Cota (Universidad de Granada)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is based on our collaborative research with "Stop Evictions" movement in Granada (Spain). We discuss methodological aspects related to the first phase of the research process, and advocate for and anthropology committed to democratizing both knowledge production and society.

Long Abstract

This paper is a reflexion about our first steps the fieldwork in a collaborative ethnographic research entitled: "Emergent Processes and Agencies of the Commons: Collaborative Social Research Praxis and New Forms of Political Subjectivation" (CSO2014-56960-P)

Collaborative research entails a critique of traditional ethnographic scope and redraws the expectations of the actors involved. Adopting a notion of 'situated knowledges' (Haraway, 1995) our starting point is a committed anthropology aimed to promote a democratization of knowledge production.

In this epistemological context, we discuss our experience together with "Stop Evictions-Granada", a collective part of the "Indignad@s" movement for the right to housing. We argue how we have problematized our own ways to make research from different locations of enunciation and lived experiences, to initiate the fieldwork with all implicated actors. The selections of the places, the way to present the research and ourselves, the experimented roles and the intercession of social relations are some of the issues that have been showed centrals and determined our option of research.

Additionally, drawing from a notion of "doubly reflexive" (Dietz, 2011) and "collaborative" ethnography (Lassiter, 2005; Rappaport, 2007, 2008; Dietz y Álvarez, 2013), and considering ethnographic actors as "epistemic partners" (Holmes and Marcus, 2008) in the process, we assess the main potentialities and difficulties found during the first year of this experience. Although we consider that collaborative ethnography can contribute to a more horizontal fieldwork relationship, we are conscious that it entails many difficulties and contradictions many difficulties and contradictions many difficulties and contradictions.

Doing research together: counter-narratives of the "Roma World" in Italy

Author: Martina Giuffrè (University of Parma)  email

Short Abstract

This paper describes a case of peer research conducted together with Roma people in Italy and shows how this integrated ethnographic methodology enabled Roma participants to combat stereotypes and misperceptions by speaking for and representing themselves.

Long Abstract

This paper draws on collaborative research regarding representations of the Roma world conducted as part of the European project "Justice", which was focused on promoting Roma leadership and combating stereotypes through intercultural processes for improving knowledge about and perceptions of Roma communities in Italy, Spain and Romania.

I focus on the Italian case and methodology in particular. Roma participating in courses to become activists and communicators expressed the desire to cease being objects of investigation and instead speak for themselves and be heard; they thus enthusiastically agreed to become researchers. This transformed the original project into an example of peer research: thanks to this integrated ethnographic methodology calling for the active participation of the social actors involved, I was able to co-create research results as well as cognitive methods and tools together with my interlocutors. This paper highlights the potentialities of the peer research approach and shows how Roma actors were able to use it to achieve their desire to increase their own agency and act as protagonists in representing themselves, thereby regaining possession of a discursive horizon too long denied them. Through practices of backtalk, Roma researchers even challenged the interpretations and methods used by anthropologists, thus giving rise to a counter-narrative of the Roma world. The life stories the Roma researchers collected and assembled into a small Archive of Roma Memory reveal the importance of autobiography as a political tool for deconstructing stereotypes and publicly renegotiating their belonging to pave the way for new processes of inclusion.

Depathologizing research practices: collaborative and self-reflexive research in trans activist contexts

Author: Amets Suess Schwend (Andalusian School of Public Health)  email

Short Abstract

The trans depathologization perspective proposes a shift from the conceptualization of trans identities as a mental disorder towards their recognition as a human right. In a research practices based on a depathologization perspective, collaborative approaches achieve a specific relevance.

Long Abstract

Over the last decade, a critical scholarship from trans-identified academics and allies emerged. From these perspectives, dynamics of pathologization in research are questioned, as well as an exclusion of trans-identified authors from academic knowledge production or limitation of their voices to a testimony role. The denounce of pathologization in the research area can be related to the demand of trans depathologization in the social, health care and legal contexts. Trans-identified scholars and allies propose strategies for a non-pathologizing and non-iatrogenic research practice, in relation to epistemological, methodological and ethical aspects. Furthermore, collective publication projects can be identified, elaborated with the objective of visibilizing critical discourses and disseminating trans depathologization perspectives. At the same time, trans depathologization activism is described as characterized by a continuous self-reflexive and self-critical practice. In their publications, trans depathologization activists discuss critiques and concerns expressed within trans communities, as well as challenging aspects in the process of negotiating diagnostic classifications and legal framework with international, regional and national agencies. The presence of trans-identified scholars and allies with a double academic-activist background, as well as the interest of trans depathologization activism in self-reflection, open up a potential space for collaborative ethnographies. As potential difficulties and limitations, the different rhythms and priorities of activist and academic contexts can be identified, as well as the need of combining activism, research and daily subsistance activities. At the same time, the dichotomy academia - activism can be questioned, giving preference to the description of the own trajectory as multidimensional and intersectional.

The trouble with maps: making a social cartography in the outskirts of Lisbon

Authors: Simone Frangella (Institute of Social Sciences - University of Lisbon)  email
Ambra Formenti (FCSH/NOVA )  email
Ambra Formenti (FCSH/NOVA )  email
Ambra Formenti (FCSH/NOVA )  email
Ambra Formenti (FCSH/NOVA )  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the nature and temporality of negotiations involved in the making of a collaborative ethnography in a neighbourhood in Great Lisbon, Portugal. We address challenges and hopes of our experience, and the diverse demands and expectations of both academic actors and residents.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to discuss the nature and temporality of negotiations involved in the making of an ongoing collaborative ethnography in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Lisbon, Portugal. By describing the processes of bringing researchers and local residents together, constructing a collective project and engaging in a negotiation about the diverse objectives and meanings of this initiative, we aim at sharing the difficulties, complexities and challenges of the collaborative purpose.

The goal of our project is to produce a social cartography of Jamaika, an informal settlement inhabited by migrants from African countries and Gypsy families on the outskirts of Lisbon. The cartography is meant to work as a source of knowledge of the area for both dwellers and researchers, being simultaneously an instrument of political claims, as well as a means to create a positive social visibility of the area.

From the beginning, our main interlocutors have been the members of an association formed by local denizens. Over the course of our endeavour, the original plan has been postponed according to the demands and expectations of our partners as well as to our needs of amplifying contact networks, and promoting larger participation. This negotiation process resulted in the joint implementation of an alphabetization course and in the renewal of the association's headquarters.

In our paper, we intend to speak about the challenges and hopes of our experience, involving the diverse - and sometimes contrasting - demands and expectations of both academic actors and research subjects.

Some reflections on the design of a participatory transmedia project on the 'artivist' performative practices in the EU in times of crisis

Author: Dario Ranocchiari (Universidade de Aveiro)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss the epistemological, methodological and ethical problems that emerged designing a participatory action-research on the ‘artivist’ (artistic + activist) performative practices that address the idea of the European Union at the time of the crisis.

Long Abstract

The economic and social crisis arising from the financial collapse of 2008 has had a deep impact on the European Union, not only in a strictly economic, political and social sense, but also on its perception as a transnational entity based on a complex and recently-born imagined community. In 2013 a little group of Italian activists that were residing in different European countries (including the author), began a transmedia non-academic project entitled Ginger/Europe is an archipelago: a journey through European waterways in times of crisis. The aim was to collaboratively document, through audio-visual and virtual tools, the performative 'artivist' reactions to the crisis and the sudden awake from the 'European Dream' that the crisis provoked. In 2015, a more articulated version of this project has been approved by the Portuguese Institute for Ethnomusicology and the fieldwork will begin in late 2016. The new project include a strong academic engagement that didn't existed in the original one, but the institutional support also allowed to further develop the participatory/collaborative mechanisms. This paper will briefly resume the evolution of the original non-academic project into the current one, focusing on the ethical, epistemological and methodological problems that the process uncovered and the solutions that have been proposed.

Theatre and choreography at the frontiers of collaborative practice and social movement

Authors: Nadine Wanono ( IMAf- CNRS)  email
Julie Peghini (Université Paris 8)  email

Short Abstract

From the complex dimension of several fieldworks to the necessity to render it accurately, we become engaged in research projects conceived as collaborative practices with a theatre company and also with a manifestation called Digital Anthropologies.

Long Abstract

Collaborative practices with people engaged in our research become quite an obvious positioning, especially when we realise the difficulties for bypassing the normative outcome the academic system and the media are looking for. We would like to present our experiences during two different research projects: one in Mayotte with a theatre company with which we try to render the multicultural dimension of the territory and its population and the second one with a manifestation we conceived with colleagues of us, in order to introduce choreographic interactions with the audience.

After describing the context and the epistemological background of these two activities we would like to address the specific capacities of the theatre and the choreographic companies to tackle the collaborative dimension and the social impact of their means of expression.

By leaving the domain of the screen and by inviting the audience to interact with the companies could we pretend to initiate collaborative activities and a form of social engagement? Are we in a process of performance or theatre? Are we proposing form of political dissent or "Artivism", what are the social and political consequences of such collaborative engagements?

When " Nothing about us without us" really matters: doing collaborative ethnography with the social movement of disability in South Africa

Author: Camilla Hansen (Oslo and Akershus University College of applied science.)  email

Short Abstract

This paper exploring diverse forms of collaborative engagement between the researcher and the social movement of disability in South Africa. Using theories; Comaroff and Comraoff (2012), Bruno Latour (2004) the process of interface create a new understanding epistemic locations of disability.

Long Abstract

This paper explores diverse forms of collaborative engagement using two collaborative research projects in South Africa as an ethnographic case. Analyzing demands as, more and more elements that emerge in the interface, social-material, heterogenity and multiple lives stories. The outcome these demands cut across seeing disability as an essence - substance - but rather as an interface of learning to be affected by more and more elements. The potential of investigating the research process as a scene of constructing new knowledge of disability; was not made explicit, nor equally understood among the actors, and not reflected upon in the outcome of the different publications. The division between quantitative and qualitative approach divided and put layers to the theoretically potential; of making use of the interface as an theoretical starting point. This paper draw attention to interface as theoretical and methodology starting point, enable us to move away from the dichotomy of able-disable. The ethnographic material emerge from the period of 2005-2009. Research project funded by Norwegian Research Council and South Africa Research Foundation

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.