“Col/labor/ation: The Politics of Working Together”
Eric Triantafillou | PhD Candidate, Anthropology
Discussant: Damien Bright | PhD Candidate, Anthropology
Friday, January 29th, 12:00-1:20pm
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Paper Abstract: In the past few decades collaborative ideals and practices have become the norm across a variety of domains—from data sharing, crowd-sourcing and scientific laboratories to universities, community spaces, and social movements. Collaboration is simultaneously hailed as capitalism’s savior and its grim reaper. As part of ongoing efforts to decolonize the discipline, anthropologists are increasingly scrutinizing the ethico-political nature of the collaborative relationship at the heart of the ethnographic encounter. Whose collaboration? By and for whom, or what? As a way of undermining the discipline’s historical complicity with power-knowledge, ethnographic collaboration—co-designing, co-researching, co-interpreting, and co-authoring—attempts to shift the purposes of ethnography from description and analysis to collaborators’ modes of knowing, allowing their ingenuity and insights to recast the imperatives of anthropology’s methodological practices. Through an account of the co-laboring practices at my primary field site, a horizontally structured all-volunteer activist archive and social movement culture space in Brooklyn, NY, this paper will consider how the labor at the center of collaboration functions as an historically specific socially mediating activity that cannot be understood with reference to anthropological conceptions of “working together” as such. At the same time ethnographic collaboration, as both a method and a problem, sheds light on the discipline’s ongoing epistemological crisis, how might it reproduce the very capitalist structures/logics it seeks to overcome?