An Ethnographic Inventory
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Modes of collaboration

The idiom of collaboration has pervaded anthropology and many other social domains in recent years, capturing the imagination of a wide range of professional domains. Collaboration has certainly a long tradition in anthropology, and ethnographers have historically drawn on different forms of partnership in their professional activity since anthropologists (and ethnographers) have always depended on others for the production of knowledge. Nevertheless, explicit acknowledgment of these forms of collaboration has tended to be the exception, rather than the norm, and field relationships have been dominated by an asymmetric relationship. Describing this kind of relationships as collaboration requires clarification of the asymmetry between the informant Other and the informed anthropologist. We may thus distinguish different forms of collaboration in anthropology, as a heuristic xcol proposes three modes of collaboration. ‘Collaboration mode 1′ pays attention to the constitutive flows of fieldwork information and refers to a relation characterized by an extractive act and the asymmetric roles embodied in the field situation. The realization of this problematic situation led in the eighties to a renovated commitment to political forms of collaboration that sought to establish symmetrical and horizontal relationships and collective form of representation. ‘collaboration mode 2’ signals the efforts to infuse fieldwork with a political or ethical commitment, it highlights the capitalization of information by anthropologists and proposes a symmetrical and ethical-laden form of relationship. ‘Collaboration mode 3’, or experimental collaboration, refers to a form of engaging in joint epistemic explorations with those formerly described as informants, now reconfigured as epistemic partners. A process that unsettles the observational convention of ethnography and explores the potential of experimentation in the field.

Source: Criado, T. S., & Estalella, A. (2018). Introduction: Experimental Collaborations. In A. Estalella & T. S. Criado (Eds.), Experimental Collaborations: Ethnography through Fieldwork Devices (pp. 1–30). New York: Berghahn.