Lab Notes: Write-up of an experiment in collaborative anthropology

In P. Rabinow (ed.), The Accompaniment: Assembling the Contemporary. University of Chicago. pp. 132-139 (2011)
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What are the actual practices of intellectual co-laboring? In the spring of 2006, we began an experiment in collaborative anthropology. There was a dual impetus to our efforts: a desire to deal head-on with inadequacies in our academic environment; and a strong feeling that the classic norms of qualitative inquiry needed to become contemporary. Collaboration struck us as potentially key to both. We drew a parallel to laboratory experiments. In the textbook version, one begins with a question, formulates a hypothesis, then tests it by adapting or inventing techniques and practicing them. With a certain irony, we nicknamed our experiment the “labinar,” lab plus seminar. From the beginning, we understood the “labinar” as an experiment in venue construction and form. We understood it as an intervention into pedagogic practice, as well as anthropological inquiry. Our reasoning was that the world is different than it was when the standards of qualitative human or social science became codified in the heyday of traditional anthropological fieldwork.
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