Collaborative dilemmas

"Collaborative dilemmas" Workshop organized within the project “Unesco frictions: Heritage-making across global governance” in collaboration with the EASA network on Anthropology of International Governance. École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain. Workshop organized by Chiara Bortolotto (IIAC/LAHIC, PI UNESCO frictions) 

Policymaking and implementation across state institutions, international organisations and transnational networks of civil-society organisations are expanding fields of anthropological research. The complex positionalities that anthropologists adopt in these ethnographic contexts and their implications in epistemological, methodological and ethical terms are emerging as central issues in these fields. This workshop explores different and often controversial forms of anthropological engagement with global policy worlds and the dilemmas that collaboration entails against the background of a dominant neoliberal research agenda.

Whether emerging from intention, serendipity or necessity, researchers’ commitment to the explored policy fields and their complicity with research subjects are recurrent patterns in these ethnographic situations. As interns, consultants, advocates, representatives of governmental or non-governmental organisations, experts or temporary employees, researchers become actors in the processes that they are observing. This insider status affords key opportunities for exploring the creative friction that different policy regimes bring to global governance. Inside-track and first-hand experience also prevents simplistic essentialisation of “institutional cultures”. Yet taking on a position outside the comfort zone of the “hands-off” approach exhumes anthropology’s skeletons in the closet and generates pressing methodological anxieties, evidence of the difficult relation between action and knowledge production that characterises social sciences’ worldly interventions.

Belonging to the “epistemic community” that contributes to shaping the explored policy programmes provides scholars with the opportunity to impact social and political debate, yet it also radically challenges the founding anthropological assumption of a distinction between self and other and is therefore regarded as an obstacle to genuine critique. Furthermore, while collaborative anthropology in the exploration of the worlds of the marginal, dispossessed or dominated is appreciated as a form of social responsibility, working with powerful organisations is suspected for its multiple responsibilities to institutional or political interlocutors and to the groups that are affected by their intervention. Within this context ethnographic research raises numerous methodological, political and ethical dilemmas, especially when it is directly or indirectly supported by standard-setting organisations and policy-making institutions.

As social sciences come to grips with neoliberal research models, academics increasingly live with this uneasiness. Trained to formulate questions aimed at unpacking policy apparatuses, they are expected to provide answers to policy issues and contribute to governance objectives following managerial, rather than speculative, logics. In these contexts, scholars face the challenge of disseminating their research while being aware of their interlocutors’ negative perception of the analytical language they use to describe policy interventions. There are clearly no easy solutions to these conundrums. This workshop sets out to interrogate collaborative dilemmas by exploring the epistemological, ethical and methodological consequences of engagement, as well as of disengagement, with governmental agendas, international organisations, and other superseding institutions.


Session 1: Tuesday 12 April (14h00-18h00)

Discussant:Dominique Schnapper

  • Chiara Bortolotto (IIAC/LAHIC, PI UNESCO frictions), Collaborative dilemmas: introduction
  • George Marcus (University of California, Irvine), Observations on Anthropologists Navigating Their Research Within the Global-Scaled  Projects of  Neoliberal Leviathans, Circa 2000-2010
  • Ruth Phillips (Carleton University), From 'Knowledge' to "Knowledges':  Collaborative Research and Inter-Articulation in Museums 
Session 2: Wednesday 13 April (9h30-13h00)
  • Kristin Kuutma (University of Tartu), Contemplating the field, the method and accountability in the world of organisations: UNESCO apparatus from within
  • Christoph Brumann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology), Heritage believers, heritage atheists, and other scholars in research about the UNESCO World Heritage arena
  • Birgit Müller (CNRS, IIAC/LAIOS), Action research in the Committee on Food Security of the United Nations
  • Irène Bellier (CNRS, IIAC/LAIOS), Engaging collaborative anthropology with indigenous peoples
Session 3: Wednesday 13 April (14h00-18h00)

Discussant: Antoine Bozio

  • Julie Billaud (Allegra Lab, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, International Committee of the Red Cross), The humanitarian ethnographer? On the methodological challenges and opportunities of researching the ICRC from within
  • Maria Sapignoli (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, O’Brien Fellow in Residence McGill University), Dilemmas, Insecurities, and Opportunities in Multi-Positioned Ethnography
  • Giulia Scalettaris (IIAC- LAUM), The International Organisation, Academia and the Researcher in the Making. Acts 1 and 2
  • Chirstian Hottin (ministère de la Culture et de la Communication), La fabrique de l’ethnologie du patrimoine : un regard de conservateur

Informations pratiques

  • Mardi 12 avril 2016 - 14:00 - Mercredi 13 avril 2016 - 18:00
  • EHESS (salle 002, RdC) - 190-198, avenue de France 75013 Paris