EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Collaboratively assembling persons

Location M-649
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00


Ina Dietzsch (University of Basel) email
Gareth Hamilton (University of Latvia) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Collaboration suggests an act in the plural, with an entity other than oneself. Welcoming ethnographic and theoretic papers, this panel aims to investigate, how this entity - be it human or other, partial or holistic - is constructed and collaborated with, pre-, post- and during such collaboration.

Long Abstract

Collaboration suggests an act in the plural, with an entity other than oneself. This panel aims to investigate, how this entity, be it human or other, is constructed and collaborated with. Authors such as Rapport ("Anyone"), Fernandez ("Pronominalism"), Carrithers ("Rhetoric of Personhood"), or Dunn ("Person-making") have suggested theoretically how this occurs in both exceptional situations and in more mundane, quotidian events and practices. The many cases in which collaboration amongst strangers occurs reach from Internet communication and forming groups of activists to creating a re-assembled body in the case of organ donation. Life might even force people to collaborate temporarily and unknowingly with those with whom they do not intend, to reach certain common aims. In all cases though, these entities - whether human or other, partial or holistic - are presented, represented and imagined in various ways. This occurs pre-, post- or during such collaboration by a variety of expressive means as well as by individuals or groups. The panel invites papers that either ethnographically enhance knowledge about particular cases or theoretically elaborate on ways in which collaborative actors assemble persons (or fail to do so). Whatever the outcome, they might use, re-write, re-establish, stabilize or undermine categories such as culture, class or other differences. Precisely how are these differences in vernacularly-ascribed categories dealt with by those who must come and work together? How are collaborators addressed, and how are they assembled for such purposes? What role do third parties, or technologies such as the media, play?

Discussant: Dr Goetz Bachmann (Leuphana University Lüneburg) & Prof. Bob Simpson (Durham University)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


A peculiar collaborative project: the making of the fashionable Muslim woman in Turkey

Author: Magdalena Craciun (University of Bucharest)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores ethnographically the collaborative assemblage of a particular ‘entity’, namely the fashionable yet pious Muslim woman; this brings together actors who hold different aesthetic, ethical and ideological understandings of what means and who can be a modern person in Turkey.

Long Abstract

In Turkey, in recent years, companies have diversified existing lines of Islamic dress; secular and conservative designers have begun designing for Islamic wardrobes; glossy Islamic lifestyle magazines have been launched; social media has become a platform for Islamic fashion related activity; and many women have flamboyantly positioned themselves as practitioners and intermediaries of Islamic fashion (attracting both admiration and criticism). In order to successfully enter this arena, these actors (must) fashion themselves as and construct and collaborate with a new type of person, that is, the fashionable yet pious Muslim woman. This takes place at personal and ideational levels, and necessitates material, visual and discursive formulations. However, given the social and political context, these actors might not get involved in this assembling project out of conviction only, but also necessity and, in the process, might contribute to the (de)stabilization and (re)formulation of the category of (modern)(Muslim)personhood. Turkey is the only Muslim country which was established as a modern state under an explicit rejection of Islamic influences on dress and where fashion was ideologically designated as an arena for the construction of personhood. Although under the decade-long government of an Islam-rooted party, the public presence of Islamic dress has been normalised, this has yet to be accepted by all sections of the Turkish society. Drawing upon research conducted in Istanbul, this paper explores how aesthetic, ethical and ideological differences are dealt with in the process of constructing this person and aims to enhance our understanding of such collaborative assemblages.

The making and unmaking of children: collaboration or collusion?

Author: Jennifer Speirs (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

Adoption and donor-assisted conception often rely on extensive temporal and geographic collaboration between strangers. Where there is anonymity and exclusion of significant stakeholders, collaborators may be accused of colluding to create children through exploiting their own elite status.

Long Abstract

In adoption and donor-assisted conception, there is collaboration between strangers over time and space. Children born in one place may be adopted by people living elsewhere including abroad, a process that may last many years. Donor-conceived children are the outcome of technologies involving the freezing, quarantine and possible long term storage of donated semen. Semen produced and frozen in one place may then be exported to sperm banks and clinics globally.

UK laws prohibit anonymous semen (and egg and embryo) donation and allow adopted people to obtain their pre-adoption names and the names of their birth parents. In many countries adopted people cannot access this information, and donor-conceived people are not allowed to obtain identifying information about their donor(s). There is collaboration in the making of children, but significant stakeholders are excluded, especially the children themselves and the birth parents of children being adopted. Where there is anonymity, children are made but also unmade: new children are invented with new names, new identities, new histories and new ancestors.

The revelations in the recently-released film Philomena, concerning the 'selling' of children from Ireland to adoptive parents in America, have caused widespread outrage and shock partly because of the perceived collusion in a morally repugnant trade, and possible conspiracy between political and religious institutions. Exploring these reactions and some ethnographic data from interviews with UK semen donors, I propose the significance of differentials of intention, power and status between collaborators in the making and unmaking of children.

Refashioning expert personhood collaboratively in a Finnish nuclear waste repository safety assessment project

Author: Vincent Ialenti (Cornell University)  email

Short Abstract

This talk examines a scene in which expert personhoods were refashioned in a safety analysis project in Finland’s nuclear waste disposal regime that brought many kinds of scientists and engineers into collaborative relations. Through this they forged epistemic sensibilities attuned to wider holisms.

Long Abstract

This presentation examines the epistemological sensibilities of a motley team of nuclear energy industry engineers, geologists, physicists, chemists, hydrologists, and mathematicians that collaboratively assembled an elaborate portfolio of models forecasting risks to potentially beset a nuclear waste repository beneath Olkiluoto, Finland over the coming millennia. Developing a 'Safety Case' submitted to Finland's nuclear regulatory authority as part of an application for a repository construction permit, some experts developed a vague sense that their portfolio, in its immense organizational complexity, had come to acquire something resembling a 'group intelligence' transcending any individual expert's awareness. This, for some, led to a feeling of being but simple 'ants' dwelling within the collective logics of a broader collaborative 'colony'. Still, as one expert explained, even while the 'forest' of Safety Case models cannot be encompassed in its totality by any single expert person, some were able to comprehend the portfolio 'from the treetops' by grasping the details of how the myriad reports wove together (understanding the 'whole') while others were able to comprehend its 'roots' by grasping the details of specific subsets of reports (understanding the 'parts'). Consequently, they were encouraged to refashion their self-concepts as expert persons by relativizing their knowledge practices' might vis-à-vis that of their fellow collaborators' knowledge practices and by reflecting on their projects' positionalities within the broader ecosystem of reports comprising the portfolio. In making these relations visible to themselves, I will demonstrate, individual collaborators were refashioned as expert persons more attuned to modalities of mystery, wonder, and holism.

Proximity and persons: making selves and relations in school

Author: Sarah Winkler-Reid (Newcastle University)  email

Short Abstract

Closeness-distance and sameness-difference are key axes through which relations are conceptualised among pupils in a London secondary school. Drawing from this ethnographic data, the implications of these metaphors are explored in terms of the relational constitution of individual persons.

Long Abstract

Degrees of proximity (closeness and distance) and distinction (sameness and difference) are key axes through which relations are conceptualised among pupils in a London secondary school. Best friendship is understood as "the closest sameness", while shared experiences in school enable year groups to "grow together", and valued close friendships to develop between those who define themselves as "very different". In contrast the breaking of friendships is characterised by exclusion, the creation of distance, and those who define themselves as both different and distant within school often characterise the other in reified and acrimonious terms.

This paper explores the implications of these key metaphors in terms of the constitution of particular kinds of persons. Proximity and distinction make sense in relation to ideologies of the individual, the pre-constituted person moving closer or further away from other pre-constituted persons. At the same time, a focus on pupils' collaborative production and policing of conventions and the effort invested in shaping of other selves, highlights the active production of these selves. This paper considers individuation as a relational process, the constitution of particular modes of 'spacetime' (Munn 1986) not only creating relations between people of particular distance and duration but also creating the grounds from which individuality is experienced.

Collaboration versus organisation: the disposable shared ideal

Author: Monica Heintz (University of Paris Nanterre)  email

Short Abstract

I will show through the ethnography of a theatrical project in France that without an ethics of responsibility a collaborative team (a shared goal) is weaker than an organisation (a shared goal plus the relation with an environment) because a shared ideal is more easily disposable than reputation.

Long Abstract

The philosopher John Searle asserts that no pre-notion of togetherness is needed for engaging in joint action: collective (we) intentionality suffices. As anthropologists, we were generally considering that the existence of a community and of a feeling of belonging is necessary for the production of joint action and we spent lots of energy describing the bonds that link individuals together in a community or inquiring into their 'identity', as a prerequisite for explaining their action. The analytical individualism of Searle has been criticized by Margaret Gilbert from the normative angle: when we form collective intentions, we create obligations and responsibilities among us, of which Searle makes a meager account. For her, joint action would rather be the result of such joint commitments (also called mutual obligations) than of shared goals. I will show in this paper through the ethnography of a theatrical project in France that without an ethics of responsibility a collaborative team (characterised by a shared goal) is weaker than an organisation (characterised by a shared goal plus the relation with an environment) because the shared ideal is more easily disposable (or why Searle is wrong while Gilbert may be right). Even in such a strong case of collaboration as is a live performance, where the shared goal is creating a common body on the stage- a strong emotional experience for each participant-, the endurance of this collaborative body is dependent on the link with the outside world, its « reputation », i.e. its existence as an organisation.

The co-production of VJs, lightning technologies, and imaginations of city nights

Author: Michel Massmünster (University of Basel)  email

Short Abstract

To discuss how VJs are co-produced I focus on knowledge, social networks, lightning technologies, and aesthetic experiences. The persons assembled by this can be located in a pop-culture discourse, where the celebration of corporal experiences goes together with the eventisation of cities.

Long Abstract

In social sciences city nights, lightning and night-time practices have often been addressed under the aspects of control and loss of control. As I will argue, it is helpful to overcome this dichotomy in order to analyse the persons assembled around new lightning practices. In this understanding lighting technologies don't lead to a change of night-time-practices, as the history of nightlife is often told. But human entities, practices, technologies, atmospheres, and imaginations of city nights do interact while changing together.

In an ethnographic research I followed visual jockeys (VJs) engaged in lighting practices in nightclubs and at unauthorized parties. The VJs are co-produced by knowledge and skills conveyed by local art schools, a network of other creative workers supporting each other in projects, highly flexible day-night cycles and working rhythms, and new lightning technologies. The self-declared aim of the VJs' practices is an intense experience of the here and now. With this they fit into a pop-culture discourse, where the celebration of corporal experiences on the dancefloor goes together with the eventisation of cities. Cities use the means of pop-culture and the creative class to stay attractive in the global competition of economic locations. Therefore I am also interested in aesthetic experiences to understand, how concepts of personhood change together with contemporary lighting practices and technical innovations, how they motivate nighthawks to enliven the night, and how they fit into location policies of the city.

Conflict, contact, cooperation: an example from mosque disputes

Author: Bernd Juergen Warneken (University of Tuebingen/Germany)  email

Short Abstract

This contribution deals with a specific but no rare pattern of disputes about the construction of representative mosques in Europe: the change from a often hostile conflict to a solution-oriented collaboration, accompanied with a process of decollectivisation and repersonalisation of the respective other.

Long Abstract

Since the 1990s, many European countries, including Estonia, have seen local disputes around the construction of representative mosques. This contribution aims to address a specific but by no means rare processual pattern of such mosque conflicts: the change from "hostile distance" via an "antagonistic collaboration" to a form of "solution-oriented collaboration". In the course of events, the definition, naming and assessment of the other also changes. Instead of perpetuating generalising and often depersonalising constructs of the other, a relevant proportion of the parties involved undergo a process of decollectivisation and repersonalisation of the persons opposite to them. In this talk, objective and subjective factors which influence such an outcome will be worked out.

Special attention is given to the media in which conflicts are staged, and here particularly to the direct personal contacts possible in local conflicts. While relevant contributions in mass media and especially on the internet employ a rhetoric of pejorative othering, face-to-face contacts apparently can cause effects which promote empathy and thus collaboration. They can, but do not necessarily have to. Therefore, it has to be clarified which concrete preconditions and arrangements for conversation foster or obstruct collaboration and in how far the development of personal sympathy can also lead to the acceptance of the other as a fellow citizen. This means asking how life world recognition as well as institutionalised recognition of the other, both necessary for a collaboration on equal terms, can be achieved.

Empirically, this lecture is based on three German examples from Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Between friends and foes: assembling collaborators in medical aid provision in occupied Palestinian territories

Author: Aivita Putnina (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores medical aid providers and their clients in Israeli-Palestinian conflict situation revealing the role of the conflict, its consequences and resistance to it in assembling collaborators on both sides.

Long Abstract

Using an Israeli-based mobile clinic visit to Palestinian refugee camp as a core story, I look at the assemblage of collaborators on both sides. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict creates not only physical, economic and political separation between Israeli and Palestinians but also generates new forms of collaboration where the relationship formed by the occupation takes a central place. Visits of the clinic are one-time event and do not establish long-term personal connections. Ritual forms and rhetorical strategies are used assembling collaborators from several opposite characteristics and balancing between friends and foes; passive aid receivers and active partners; healing and short-term relief; medical practice and Islamic tradition. Collaboration thus is viewed as a two way track where mutual constitution of collaborators is taking place assembling meanings from the collaboration process and its context. The paper is based on 28 interviews and conversations and observations during 10 visits to Israeli and Palestinian hospitals, ambulance service and mobile clinic.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.