Productive frictions are moments when unfamiliar perspectives are brought together for innovative recombination and shared epistemic work. In these spaces, we ask: what do we as ethnographers contribute, what do we learn, and what sorts of evaluations must we make at sites of emergent recombination?
This panel takes up the theme of confluence, collaboration, and intersection to look at productive frictions: moments when new and unfamiliar perspectives are brought together for the purpose of innovative recombination and shared epistemic work. We ask: what sort of environments and social trajectories shape such intersectional moments? How are different ontologies measured and mediated in collaborative spaces? What does such a "productive" friction offer in terms of potential, exploitation, or something in between? Conceptual and theoretical discussion of these questions is widespread. However, we feel a lack of discussion remains around the practical realization of these frictions. Thus, this panel will focus on concrete examples of anthropological encounter in which the making of new alliances can be observed, analyzed, and critically engaged. The confluence of new alliances and their productive recombination can occur in (seemingly) established institutions and fields, including psychiatry, hospital work, and the re-invention of organizational forms among tech start-ups and social entrepreneurs. Taking ethnography as an inherently collaborative encounter, which today must negotiate newly confluent fieldwork conditions (Holmes and Marcus 2005, 2008), we want to discuss these different instances of new alliances in order to ask about our shared responsibilities as well: what does the role of the ethnographer - in the midst of these productive frictions - practically contribute to the production of new knowledge, and what do we learn from being part of these confluent spaces? What sorts of evaluations can we make (or must we make?) as ethnographers at sites of emergent recombination?