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Strong collaboration as a method for multi-sited ethnography: On mycorrhizal relations

Chapter 11
Strong Collaboration as a Method
for Multi-sited Ethnography: On
Mycorrhizal Relations
Matsutake Worlds Research Group (Timothy Choy, Lieba Faier, Michael
Hathaway, Miyako Inoue, Shiho Satsuka, and Anna Tsing)1
Introduction: In which a Mushroom Leads the Way
Once there was a mushroom that so enticed everyone with its spicy, sweet aroma
that people would pay a fortune for a sliver in their soup. The mushroom hid and
prospered in cool mountain forests, where deer and squirrels followed its delicious
scent. And the people, too, came to gather it, plucking it from the roots of pines.
From its revenues, mansions were built in Tibet and village cooperatives prospered
in Oaxaca. War refugees from the hills of Laos gathered it in Oregon. The North
Korean army claimed its harvest as a security objective. Nature lovers reshaped the
landscape to revive it in Kyoto, and ecotourists sought it out in Finland. In time,
a group of anthropologists became curious about these goings on. How could one
mushroom create so many different social-natural worlds? What might we learn
from studying its diversity within the interconnections of its commodity chain?
This chapter is our rst report on the conditions of collaboration that can make
such a multi-sited study possible.
Once there was a discipline that had become known for its ability to glean the
texture of everyday life and the force of communal sociality. But it longed to speak
to the wider scope of modernity and perhaps address the majesty of the whole blue-
green planet Earth in its bed of clouds. When the term ‘multi-sited ethnography’
1 The Matsutake Worlds Research Group is an anthropological collaboration to study
global commerce and science involving matsutake mushrooms. Our research has beneted
from grants from the University of California Pacic Rim Research Program and the Toyota
Foundation. Our project includes ongoing eldwork in the Pacic Northwest (USA), British
Columbia, Japan, and China. Tsing’s eldwork with Southeast Asian American mushroom
pickers in the Pacic Northwest takes place in collaboration with Hjorleifur Jonsson as
well as undergraduate students Lue Vang and David Pheng. Satsuka’s eldwork was funded
by Albion College Faculty Development Grants and the University of Toronto Connaught
New Staff Matching Grant.
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Multi-sited Ethnography
was coined (Marcus 1995), it caught like wildre. Perhaps this method could
sustain the legacy of ethnographic intimacy while extending it across the globe.
Suddenly, everyone claimed to do multi-sited ethnography, whether it was a study
of two organizations in the same city or a comparison of two countries. Random
anecdotes, loose journalism and statistical surveys were signed up. The term leapt
past its capacities and threatened to lose all meaning. This is a good time to take
another look. What kinds of projects might bring pride to the concept of multi-
sited ethnography? In this collectively authored chapter, we argue for a model with
‘strong collaboration’ at the centre.
Our concept of collaboration requires a reexive methodology for working
across and with difference. Our collaboration is not data gathering under a common
theoretical umbrella. Instead, our collaboration requires negotiation across
epistemologically diverse terrains and partially ‘articulated knowledges’ (Choy
2005); this is collaboration with friction at its heart (Tsing 2005). Following Sandra
Harding’s (1993) term ‘strong objectivity’, we call this strong collaboration. The
methodological work of collaboration should not be hidden; the knowledge we
gain depends on it. We argue that strong collaboration can lead to ethnographically
substantive multi-sited research.
At rst glance, the use of collaboration in multi-sited research seems
straightforward. To the extent that the sites are different from each other,
expertise and commitment are necessary to study each site, and this is most easily
accomplished with more than one researcher on board. Multiple researchers can
carry the burden of multiple languages, area studies, and histories in the study.
Yet advocating a practice of deploying multiple expertises is dangerous
business; it might be mistaken for a division of labour, where all the parts
studied and analyses produced would add up to a coherent whole. To steer
around such spurious holisms, our claim for strong collaboration goes further.
First, we acknowledge that ethnographic eldwork requires a disciplined full-
body immersion. Having multiple bodies working across sites of immersion
does not merely add data; it requires explicit and active work in translation and
interpretation. Such work changes the research project: the basic questions, the
framework of analysis, and the very object of study do not remain stable. Strong
collaboration is the work of continually remaking the project.
Second, the forms of sociality we study are themselves formed in encounter
and translation (Faier, forthcoming). Multi-sited research almost always looks for
global interconnection, and our project is no exception. The social networks we
study are already strongly collaborative in just the senses we give to our own
research; they are formed through awkward negotiations across difference. Strong
collaborations become the object of our study, as well as our own practice. Our
self-consciousness about the mechanisms of collaboration illuminates our social
Third, such collaborations are not limited to humans. Strong collaborations
between humans and non-humans make up the partial systematicities of
ecosystems. Multi-sited research opens the possibility of comparison across
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 199
varied eco-collaborations, in which non-humans are enlisted into contrasting roles
(Hathaway 2006). Strong collaboration among researchers facilitates appreciation
of non-human agency in all its site specicity.
Indeed, the entanglements of matsutake (see below) and host trees – technically
known as mycorrhizal relations – offer an intriguing model for our own research
objects and practices. Mycorrhiza are joint structures made from the interaction
between tree roots and fungi. Mycorrhizal relations transfer sugars from plants
to fungi while making soil nutrients available to plants. The encounter itself is
productive, but whether for better or worse for each partner is hardly settled.
Mycorrhiza call to mind all the pleasures and dangers of intimate encounter.
Without simple hierarchies or predator-prey dichotomies, mycorrhizal relations
suggest theories of entanglement and assemblage to understand both social and
natural relations of collaboration, love, and value.
In another moment of agency and authorship of our research collaboration,
Mogu Mogu (that is, Satsuka and Choy in entangled collaboration, 2007) develops
a Deleuzian optic to draw parallels between the intimate relations of matsutake
and pine, on the one hand, and the dreams and plans of foresters, mycologists,
merchants, and connoisseurs, on the other. Just as the relations between mushroom
and tree are co-nourishing, so too are these economies of esteem, prestige,
knowledge, and resource management.
In our project, then, we follow two objects: collaboration itself and a mushroom
called matsutake. Matsutake is in origin a Japanese word, and, indeed, the mushroom
is most valued in Japan. Some of our Japanese informants see matsutake as an icon
of Japanese culture: ‘You can’t understand Japan without knowing matsutake’,
explained one connoisseur. But this is a ‘Japan’ made in global encounter. Since
the 1980s, most matsutake is gathered outside of Japan: in Korea, North and South;
in China; in the USA and Canada; and in Mexico, Morocco, Siberia, and northern
Europe.2 Our project has begun intensive eldwork in just a few of these sites:
central Japan; North America; southwest China. In these sites, we learn from all
kinds of foragers, from Southeast Asian refugees and Japanese American heritage
pickers in the USA to Tibetan villagers in Yunnan. We speak with scientists,
foresters, and nature lovers, as well as mushroom buyers, wholesalers, grocers, and
gourmets. In this, we make use of the expertise and experience of team members.
However, none of us has become an expert on just one area; each of us savours the
transnationalism of the project. We have experimented with overlapping and joint
eldwork. We work on interpretation together. Our goal is continually to reframe
the project through the collaboration. Thus, unlike more conventional projects of
scientic collaboration, we bring humanistic processes of evaluation into the heart
of project formation but with more than one researcher. It is this feature that
offers the most interest for multi-sited ethnography.
2 For related ethnographic research on global commodity chains, see Bestor (2001),
Friedberg (2004), Collins (2003), and Fisher and Benson (2006).
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Multi-sited Ethnography
Consider the design of the project. We did not gather mushroom researchers
and ask them what they knew about each site. Instead, we gathered anthropological
theorists of nature and transnationalism and asked them to think about mushrooms.
In this way, we have built strong collaboration as the distinctive feature of the
research, the feature that makes it ‘multi-sited ethnography’ rather than just
research reports from here and there.
In this chapter, then, we refrain from telling you much about matsutake; instead,
we grapple with the question of how strong collaboration can contribute to multi-
sited ethnography. As might be expected, the format of this chapter itself reects a
particular moment of strong collaboration in our project. Collaborations are never
easy. Our group includes scholars at different stages in their careers, and with different
priorities. Everyone in the group has solved the problem of nding an academic
appointment, but this introduces further anxieties about advancement to tenure. The
younger scholars do not want to be overwhelmed by the older ones. Collectively
written prose generally the most readable and useful product of collaborative
work – is still awkward for us because we have not agreed upon a ‘voice’ that can
reect everyone’s position. So we begin by including something more basic: short,
signed contributions each by a single author. This need not be our ending point, but
it represents a beginning: and one that highlights the process itself.
Our rst two contributions address strong collaboration in eld research. In
ethnographic eldwork, the researcher’s body – with all its senses – is a tool for
learning, and the primacy of sensual immersion urges eldworkers to pursue their
learning alone. Here we consider how one might use collaboration to aid the senses.
Lieba Faier discusses the possibilities of ‘echolocation’ as eldworkers share their
‘sensitive skin’. Shiho Satsuka explores the question of translation, as collaboration
may stimulate attention to the crucial ‘gap’ across forms of understanding in which
ethnographic knowledge begins to appear. Strong collaboration has the potential,
both argue, to sharpen the senses, facilitating that acute, shape-shifting discomfort
upon which anthropology depends.
Satsuka offers examples of how translation between Japanese, North American,
and Chinese projects for managing nature challenges the terms for studying each.
She thus leads us to our second section, which asks how strong collaboration
might open up new conceptual spaces. Miyako Inoue explores the difference
strong collaboration makes within the unifying practices of modern knowledge.
How can dialectical and dialogic research practices offer an altered perspective on
the analytic process? Anna Tsing asks what kinds of anthropology might be open
to strong collaboration. She introduces some features of a collaboration-friendly
scholarship, in which we might slow down the academic process to allow the
continual reformulation of our work.
Our nal section places our project in the context of other experiments
in collaboration. Michael Hathaway explores the negative possibilities of
collaboration; collaboration can be smothering, traitorous even. Timothy Choy
asks why collaboration has become so attractive among cultural anthropologists
today. How does our collaboration sit among others? He then takes us back to the
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 201
‘mycorrhizal relations’ to which the mushrooms lead us: the living entanglements
of roots and fungal cells that advise us of the strong collaborations with which
both humans and non-humans sustain themselves. In connection, and for both
intellectual and material sustenance, we are in their debt.
Fieldwork and the Senses
Snakes and Skin – Lieba Faier
‘What kind of people pick matsutake? Only men?’, I tried to engage Morikawa-
san as he drove me up the narrow mountain road that led to one of his matsutake-
gathering spots. In Central Kiso, a cluster of mountain towns and villages in
southwestern Nagano, Morikawa-san was known as a matsutake no meijin, a
matsutake expert. He responded to my question matter-of-factly, his eyes fastened
on the winding road ahead: ‘No. Both men and women pick matsutake’. He
explained that he was sometimes joined by his wife and granddaughter. ‘But’, he
chuckled, ‘you can’t be afraid of spiders or snakes, or have sensitive skin’.
In a collaborative research project, what happens to the spiders, snakes, and
sensitive skin of data collecting? How can we incorporate the affective, embodied,
experiential dimensions of eldwork when working with so many different
We brought together so many researchers with various area studies expertise
to address what George Marcus has referred to as the ‘dilution’ of Malinowskian
ethnographic practice that can occur in multi-sited research (Marcus 2005). We
are committed to basing our analyses, at least in part, on intimate, focused, and
extended immersions in given communities. When it comes to thinking about
how to analyse our data, we cannot ignore the phenomenologies – the experiential
materialities – of bodies and places: the fear I felt driving up the winding thread
of the mountain road in Morikawa-san’s tiny Mini-car; the way the gentle
compression of the ground reassured me as we slowly made our way down the
slippery mountain slope; the sense of surrender I felt as a lissom breeze made
its way through the trees; my self-conscious embarrassment with the way that
Morikawa-san’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter greeted me – introducing
themselves very politely and pointedly in English and extending their hands to
me for a shake – when he invited me into his home after our short excursion; the
spongy feel in my mouth of the wild mushrooms we ate together that afternoon.
Taste, sight, sound, touch, smell, heat, body awareness, pain, anger, frustration,
balance, weight, scope, acceleration, logic, instinct, hunger, belief. The senses we
engage when we conduct eldwork are nodal points between our ethnographic
environments and us. Through them, we become ethnographers. Through them,
our bodies become our research instruments.
What, then, does it mean to do research with multiple sensing bodies? What
does it mean to produce ethnographic knowledge with so many differently
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embodied research instruments? How can we work across the different subjective
forms of knowledge they produce? To some extent, this is a problem of translation.
How could it ever be possible to translate diversely embodied experiences into a
single analysis?
Rather than thinking of the diversity of our embodied, sensory experiences as
an insurmountable obstacle, I suggest that we approach it as a challenge that will
enable us to understand both our bodies and what it means to be ethnographers
in new ways. This is a challenge of ethnographic writing as much as it is one
of diverse perspectives. A strong collaboration research animal can develop new
collaborative-eldwork senses; the sensory whole of our eldwork experiences
can offer something different than the sum of our research parts. For example,
lately, I have been thinking about echolocation, the ability to navigate through
spaces by interpreting reected sounds. Although humans do not have this sense,
bats, toothed whales, and some kinds of birds do. Echolocation is an interactive
sense that enables a creature to nd its way by reaching out to other bodies with
sounds that return to it transformed. Consider, then, the diverse ways that Anna,
Miyako, Shiho, and I described our interactions with a matsutake wholesaler we
all at some point met in Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. As we bounced ideas off of each
other based on our meetings with him, we found that our impressions of this man
ranged from ‘generous and charming’ to ‘obnoxious and pretentious’. A more
multidimensional picture of him emerged than any single ethnographic perspective
could have provided. Perhaps ethnographic echolocation is one of many new kinds
of senses that can be cultivated through multi-sited, strong collaborations.
Translation in Collaborative Fieldwork – Shiho Satsuka
While conducting joint eldwork in Kyoto, Anna, Michael and I heard several
scientists mention that the best matsutake forest is one where a woman can walk in
high heels with an open parasol. Because matsutake is a weak competitor among
fungi and microbes, the forest oor should be clear, relatively dry, and solid; the
soil should not have enough nutrients for other species to thrive.
This gendered image of matsutake forest caught Anna’s attention because
she, if I may borrow an expression from Lieba, ‘brought her eyes’ from Oregon,
where matsutake forests are often associated with wildness and masculinity. The
tame, cultivated vision of matsutake forests contrasts with environmental vision
in Oregon, where even managed forests are considered ‘wild’. Michael brought
his eyes from Yunnan, and pointed out the irony of cultivated landscape in Japan.
On the one hand, he was surprised by the extended web of paved roads in Kyoto
forests, which narrowed to winding paths in mountainous areas. Compared to the
landscape in Yunnan, where the erosion of unpaved roads causes serious problems
for farmers, the land seemed well maintained. On the other hand, he was struck
by the widespread phenomenon of matsutake forests being ‘abandoned’, not taken
care of properly for matsutake, because of rural depopulation and the fossil fuel
revolution that has replaced rewood collection since the 1960s.
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 203
Matsutake yama, or matsutake-growing landscape in Japan, can be translated
as ‘matsutake forest’, thus lending commensurability with forests in Oregon and
Yunnan. Although the dictionary translation of ‘yama is ‘mountain’, the cultivated
aspect of ‘matsutake yama’ may be sometimes captured better by ‘forest’ instead
of ‘mountain’, because of the latter’s connotation of solitude and wilderness. For
example, Saito and Mitsumata (n.d.) use ‘forest’ in their analysis of the communal
land usage of ‘matsutake yama’. Translation forges the equivalence and the
ground for knowledge exchange and articulation. Translation makes linkages with
landscape in different locales, and this is integral for our study of transnational
matsutake networks. Yet, as Lydia Liu (1995) points out, the making of linguistic
equivalence is not innocent from power connotations.
The politics of translation is striking in the translation of iriai, the practice
of communal land use in Japan, as ‘the commons’. In a workshop Anna and I
attended in Tokyo in January 2005, the meta-theme seemed to be how to situate
iriai in relation to the commons. According to Tomoya Akimichi, the workshop
convener, the English commons and iriai differ for several reasons. For example,
while ‘the commons’ assumes universal rights of human resource use, ‘iriai’ is
based on the idea that a certain group of people temporarily borrows the resource
from kami [deities]. While the commons organizes the ownership of the land, iriai
land ownership and use rights do not necessarily coincide. While the subject who
uses the commons is an individual natural resource user, the subject of iriai is the
community itself, including both human and non-human actors (Akimichi 1999).
While the workshop participants were all aware of the difference, they discussed
iriai as a Japanese version of the commons. This translation creates the visibility
of iriai beyond the particular context in Japan; it allows them to compare iriai
with similar natural resource histories and to understand its signicance in a global
context. However, by making iriai equivalent to the commons, the translation
mobilizes the commons as a universal category. Translation offers the commons a
distinct status that transcends local difference.3
Similarly, equating yama and forests enables us to compare forest landscapes in
Kyoto, Oregon, and Yunnan, and to analyse the connectivity of these landscapes.
At the same time, the gaps among yama, forest, and shan [mountain/forest] or
any other Chinese folk terms for forest, should not be forgotten if we want to
trace how the linkages came into being and to analyse the politics of transnational
Spivak reminds us of the responsibility of the translator to recognize the
gap while being an active agent of bridging it. She says, ‘in translation, where
meaning hops into the spacy emptiness between two named historical languages,
we get perilously close to it ... The task of the translator is to facilitate this love
between the original and its shadow, a love that permits fraying, holds agency of
3 This process is similar to how money became distinct from other commodities,
and obtained a privileged position as a currency with claim to universality and
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Multi-sited Ethnography
the translator and the demands of her imagined or actual audience at bay’ (1993,
180–1). She cautions, ‘unfortunately it is too easy to produce translations if this
task is completely ignored’ (ibid., 181). If we ignore the ‘spacy emptiness’ between
yamaand ‘mountain’ or ‘iriai and ‘the commons’, translation is only too easy toonly too easy totoo easy to
produce; a lot is lost in translation. Translation requires an uneasy commitment of
the translator: to be an agent of bridging the gap through simultaneous transgression
and submission to what we seek to translate.4
In our collaborative eldwork, when the trajectory of each researcher intersects
with clusters of strings coming from their previous interactions in other contexts
and other places, an interesting chemistry happens in the effort to make sense
of this difcult, irritating and uncomfortable gap. This is a gap that a researcher
who has already immersed themself in a eld would easily ignore. This is nothing
new to ethnography. Every ethnography involves cultural translation, and an
ethnographer constantly juggles this gap, struggling to nd a position and point
of view. But eldwork collaboration highlights the process even more, making it
inevitable and hard to ignore. The collaborators’ historical trajectories, and the
social strings attached to them coming from different places, make the constitution
of the gap evident and traceable, and highlight tensions and the generative potential
of translation.
Remaking the Academy
Collaboration and Modern Knowledge – Miyako Inoue
We grew up professionally and live in a sub-discipline that envisions collaboration
as a marked category. We were all trained and disciplined to think of scholarship
as a normally individual, even isolated, enterprise. We know this is an abstraction,
indeed, a distortion. We know that intellectual labour is social labour. Scientists,
engineers, biological anthropologists, archaeologists: they all regularly work
in teams of specialists with dovetailing knowledge. Corporate research and
development is, of course, never based on a model of individual pursuit of
knowledge, but is always organized in teams of complementary specialists. So what
is up with collaboration as far as sociocultural anthropologists are concerned? Are
we just trying to catch up with everybody else, from corporations to archaeologists,
or is collaboration for us something different?
I think that what we are trying to do here is different in three specic ways.
First, strong collaboration is dialectical not synthetic. There is more to strong
collaboration than what is highlighted in the hard sciences and corporate research
and development. The benet traditionally imputed to research teams is the
integration of complementary specializations, the pay-off that comes from dividing
4 Derrida (1991) likewise discusses the difculty of translation as simultaneously
necessity and impossibility.
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 205
up the work into functional categories and assigning it to different team members.
What we are trying to do here is different. True, we have all assumed ‘specialized’
roles in this project. But the model is not based on an intention to synthesize our
separate analyses into an organic, complementary whole. On the contrary, our
works may show that there are views of our object that are not assimilable to others;
we might have to be content with productive tensions among our conclusions. The
analogy in politics is the recognition that a will to consensus is often a will to
power in that somebody has to yield to others in order to arrive at ‘consensus’.
We are often better off agreeing to disagree. While all of us are familiar with this
model of working together, we should mark its distinction from the traditional
understanding of collaboration. Clifford (1997) has written wonderfully about the
multivocality of collaboration between anthropologists and indigenous peoples;
they do not arrive at synthesis and perhaps not even agreement, other than to
work together by representing their distinct standpoints. But, generally speaking,
scholars have been less open to this kind of multivocality as a ‘positive’ outcome
of collaborations with each other. Our project gives this model the attention it
Second, we depart from the traditional model of collaboration in terms of the
partitioning of knowledge. While scientists on teams recognize that value comes
from interdisciplinary or inter-speciality dialogue, there is generally little sense
that disciplines or specialities might change their basic relations with each other or
undergo internal reorganization on the basis of dialogue. Our project opens up that
possibility. While it is not comfortable to consider rethinking one’s research in the
midst of doing the work, we need continually to ask how our frameworks for the
project are hierarchically related. Consider a case in point that I am always struggling
with as a linguistic anthropologist: How is the act of speaking by individual actors
and its study by linguists related to political economy, to capitalism? Can I take
that question seriously without a theory of social reproduction that either privileges
language or mode of production? I have not answered that question, but I continue
to wrestle with it because it is good to think with. My point is that a collaboration
among critical sociocultural anthropologists can be an opportunity to think deeply
about core ideas in our discipline and our specialties within the discipline.
Third, we depart from the traditional model of collaboration to the extent
that we focus on connections across different geographical sites rather than
complementarity across different specialities. Bringing supposedly different ‘cases’
to the table is not new in anthropology, but we are not interested in conventional
comparison. Rather, we see these sites as socially and materially connected by
a commodity. Marx’s concepts of the commodity and of commodity fetishism
are useful guides. Marx was not interested in ‘comparing’ the site of production
of a commodity with the site of its consumption, as if they were two different
‘cases’ in the Human Relations Area Files. His work guides us to trace concrete
connections between production and consumption, what Lila Abu-Lughod (1991),
after Eric Wolf, has called ‘phenomena of connection’. Besides, such connections
are not best understood in terms of the functional requirements of capitalism or
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Multi-sited Ethnography
an integrated world system. That is precisely how we should not be trying to
understand phenomena of connection. Localities – places, as geographers call
them – are sui generis; some of them are more powerful than others and have the
ability to tie the others to them – and sometimes remake the others – in ways the
less powerful have little choice over. What are those ways that powerful places
have at their disposal, and how do less powerful places respond? How do less
powerful places get caught up with the more powerful places to begin with? While
it is possible for a single scholar to address these kinds of questions through multi-
sited ethnography, it is collaborative work that is most promising.
Four Propositions and Three Stories in Six Hundred Words – Anna Tsing
Why do ethnography? One reason is to spurn spectacular capitalism, which lls
our screens with glamorous happy thin elites playing with their globally-standard
expensive toys. The world in its materiality and its diversity is worth more
than that, as ethnography can remind us. But anthropology too is full of glamour
stars, all in a rush to ‘brand’ their ideas and market their way to the top. What
might it take to build a slower, richer scholarship, in which we might connect with
the living sensual textures of our still diverse world? Might strong collaboration
One: The joy is in the detail Miyako joined our group when I brought her a
dozen bags of matsutake. It was 2004, the best season for matsutake in the Pacic
Northwest for many years. Miyako had never seen so many; one slice was a treat.
She gasped, she sighed – and she cooked for us. ‘Don’t cut the mushrooms with a
knife’, her mother had said, ‘it ruins the avour and texture’. We ate the mushrooms
grilled with no oil but with a bit of lemon and soysauce. Ah! It was the rst time I
appreciated the avour, easily ruined by Chinese-style stir-fries.
When you are studying a mushroom, everything is a ‘detail’ that most people
scholars and otherwise do not care about. But the pleasures of ethnography
have always been in the detail. It is what makes ethnographic research long – and
Two: Collaborations are dened by their difculties H, a Japanese matsutake
dealer, irted with Lieba and refused to address me, despite my age and status.
Both Lieba and I felt intensely uncomfortable. Only when I went back some
months later and spoke to H on my own did I realize the value of that complicated
initial scene. H was formal, and he was shocked when I quoted for him the most
interesting thing he had said: ‘Matsutake traders are like the Maa who controlled
international ports before the second world war.’ He had been showing off for
Lieba, going out on a limb beyond his reserve; he had allowed himself some useful
This is, of course, an absolutely ordinary eldwork story, and a self-
consciously benign one at that. But contrast it with a conventional understanding
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 207
of ‘collaboration’, in which a predetermined research paradigm is brought to
fruition by a team. That kind of collaboration is never ethnographic, although it
might be multi-sited.
Three: Writing should be slow Everyone says the opposite, of course, but
wouldn’t our eld be better if there were fewer books and articles and each more
beautifully crafted?5
Four: All knowledge is experimental knowledge Shiho, Michael, and I spent
several weeks in Kyoto in joint eldwork. I was terried. I thought we would step
on each other’s feet. In fact, it was a brilliant moment. Shiho understood the scene;
we would have been hopeless without her. Michael has a documentary soul, able
to record everything around him. I was the business card, able to open doors. Best
of all, our memories are different, and we can play on each others’ strongest suits.
Such experiments do not always work. But an anthropology without them has lost
its edge.
Alan Christy (forthcoming) has described the innovative, if sometimes
contradictory, experiments of the Japanese Native Ethnology movement in the
early twentieth century. He reminds us of the spirit of mix and play that pervaded
the early history of ethnography, and not just in Japan. Multi-sited research will
benet from that kind of spirit, and strong collaboration can be an inspiration for
lively new forms.
Comparative Collaborations
Traitorous Collaborations – Michael Hathaway
One day, over an improvised meal of tea, watermelon, marinated tofu, and Japanese
mushroom-shaped chocolates, we, a group of anthropologists, gathered to talk
about matsutake and ways we might undertake a collaborative project. We were
encouraged that, within our discipline, interest in collaboration was on the rise,
challenging well-entrenched traditions of carrying out independent eldwork.
The idea of collaboration has much appeal, but some of us wondered if
collaboration is always desirable. Denitions of the term reminded us of its divergent
meanings. Collaboration is not always about equal contributions: in the projects of
‘big science’, for example, some participants only gather data, and do not play a
role in theoretical considerations. Collaboration can also mean abandoning one’s
key insights for the good of the group. Or it can mean capitulation, or, worse still,
betrayal, as we see in the American Heritage Dictionary (2006) denition:
5 In agitating for a ‘slow books’ movement, I have at the back of my mind the model
of the ‘slow food’ movement. Mark-Anthony Falzon calls my attention to the related ‘slow
city’ movement Cittaslow.
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1. To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort
2. To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one’s country
The second denition might help to explain the hesitations and difculties we
encounter in our own desires to collaborate, as well as the difculties in ongoing
forms of collaboration. Collaboration is not necessarily positive, even where it
informs desires for social justice or environmental sustainability.
Collaboration in the academy has its own rituals, set by institutional demands.
To consider the possibilities of collaboration, it is useful to look further. Outside
of the academy, we can often see many forms of collaboration in networks,
partnerships and other forms of joint work. In some sectors, collaboration is in
itself a goal. To look at the multivalent quality of collaboration, I will briey
look at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their international nature
conservation efforts, where collaboration has become de rigueur. NGOs foster
linkages between themselves, major funders, individual members, academics,
corporations and many other agents, trying to effect change across the globe.
Nature conservation has adopted a self-consciously global perspective, which
requires, in turn, a global staff. To carry out their plans hatched in Gland, Tokyo,
or Washington D.C., nature conservation organizations require alliances with
national resource managers. Until the 1980s, national representatives were almost
always state ofcials, natural resource bureaucrats, and park guards.
Anthropologists and others critiqued such top-down plans as examples of the
second, ‘treasonable’, form of collaboration, whereby national agents colluded
with foreign forces, evicting rural citizens in order to create and enforce newly
made nature reserves. Many critics contended that such conservation projects were
often crafted through forms of traitorous cooperation. Worse still, this was not
only true among representatives of the nation-state, but also through community
members themselves, as I explain below.
Over the last decade, other forms of collaboration, such as ‘community based’
programmes have vastly increased, gaining momentum and funding support from
major organizations. Community based programmes can, however, hide vast
power differentials, and the now obligatory requirement for ‘local collaboration’
has stimulated some rather unusual plans. Anthropologists who look past the
rhetoric have revealed structural injustice still in operation. Examples are easy to
nd. In my own research in southern China, a conservation group provided loans
to village families, but on two conditions. First, each family had to sign a pledge
promising not to harm any of the elephants that occasionally plodded through
the village. Second, the family was required to invest the loan in money making
ventures. Later, the conservation staff asked neighbours how the families really
spent the money. If they gured that a family had violated any of the conditions,
the conservation group took away the family’s valuable possessions. These
details were not publicized, and the project was heralded by outside analysts as a
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 209
successful example of community collaboration. Yet community members were
expected to ‘cooperate treasonably’ against their neighbours.
Of course, there are also many ambiguous stories and spaces created by
conservationists who are trying to avoid some of the common problems in
collaboration; many examples of such conservationists are described by Lowe
(2006) and by Brosius et al. (2005). In my own eldwork in China, I saw a number
of creative alliances, which spanned national boundaries and attempted new forms
of partnerships and cooperation, traitorous and otherwise (Hathaway 2006). Still,
stories about nature conservation offer a warning to those of us who attempt new
forms of collaboration: beware the divergent meanings and possibilities inherent
in both the term and the practice.
Other Collaborations: Human and Non-human – Tim Choy
Collaboration in anthropology is not new. Not only do we collaborate regularly
with our ‘informants’; a cursory look at the history of the discipline shows many
projects in which several researchers based themselves in the same area – perhaps
each of them studying a different aspect (for example, ritual, spatial relations,
kinship, economy, and so on) of a ‘culture’ understood to be geographically
delimited. Today, we see fewer of these regional basecamp models, at least in
American anthropology, but it is important to note that even our individual efforts
are always in relation with others – drawn into relation with other efforts through
our analytics and topics of choice.
Still, there are moves afoot in anthropology to make collaborations more explicit
and intentional and to stimulate different ways of working together. The Savage
Minds blog (<>) strives both to develop a community of
discussion among anthropologists and to share anthropological ways of posing
questions more widely. The Anthropology of the Contemporary Research
Collaboratory (ARC) brings together anthropologists concerned with biopolitics
and governmentality with the aim of developing a common language, common
standards, and common questions for illuminating contemporary congurations
of knowledge and power. There are more occasional and more loosely knit
collaborations as well. The Center for Ethnography at University of California-
Irvine (see Marcus, this volume) stages conversations among ethnographers,
as well as between anthropologists and their interlocutors on topics of shared
expertise. Several California-based researchers in science and technology studies,
meanwhile, are cultivating a multi-disciplinary network through summer retreats
and campus exchanges. The Asthma Files Project, spearheaded by Kim and Mike
Fortun, is equally broad in its disciplinary scope, while focusing particularly
on collecting multiple ways of knowing about and representing asthma and air
We did not have these other collaborations in mind when we began, just as they
most likely did not have us in mind when they began to work together. But it is
striking to see emergent at roughly the same time so many efforts to make working
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Multi-sited Ethnography
together a methodological priority. A conversation between different collectives
about the means and ends of collaboration might be due. Let me offer some
thoughts on what our matsutake collaboration has to offer such a conversation.
There is something decidedly interactive in the eldwork collaborations we
have described. More crucially, perhaps, there is something sensory to them – they
highlight moments of perception and apprehension. In the story we have told,
we are a many-sensing animal, and the triangulation of signals from our various
sensory apparatuses none of them prior to our training, our competencies, our
always-informed affordances allows us a heightened, almost super-saturated,
This differs somewhat from the characterization of collaborative work offered
by the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory. In an email
exchange with George Marcus, Stephen Collier and Andrew Lakoff explain their
practice of taking empirical ‘soundings’ in order to ne tune ARC’s concept work.
This concept work, they explain, follows a process of informed observation, the
formulation of tentative concepts and distinctions, sounding them against empirical
tests, discussions among collaborators, and reformulation.
ARC’s description of this process could apply just as well to our own matsutake
research and the discussions we have had while writing this chapter, just as I am
sure that ARC researchers have stories to tell about learning how to apprehend
as much as comprehend. It is striking to note though, the extent to which, when
talking about the benets of working together, the discussions we bring to view are
ones where we calibrate our senses – the means through which empirical details
come to presence in our research imagination. Comparatively, ARC focuses
on conversations that hone their analytics. This opposition between perception
and concept work dissolves upon closer view, of course. Empirical details are
noticed by conceptually informed senses, as much as concepts come from striking
perceptions. So, then, what is the point of these different emphases? What is the
For us, the answer might lie in the senses we are inspired by matsutake to
hone. One major family of senses we are trying to develop is that for sensing
qualities of agency and relation that are not necessarily ‘human’. Much has been
made recently in the anthropology of science of the role of non-human agencies
in shaping the worlds we live in, but too frequently we locate such non-human
agencies by imputing in them qualities that we tacitly assume are necessary
to human agency – such as subjective intentionality, autonomy, and so on. We
should know better: feminist anthropology, for instance, has problematized such
assumptions in feminist politics looking for a particular kind of feminine or political
subjectivity in other places (for example, Mahmood 2005). Nonetheless, theories
of non-human agency – and subsequently, of agency in general – rely upon tropes
of speech, recalcitrance, and so on (for example, Latour 2004). We count among
our collaborators matsutake itself with a hunch that doing so will teach us to think
more creatively and subtly about the forces that shape the worlds we live in, our
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Strong Collaboration as a Method for Multi-sited Ethnography 211
own human capacities and agencies, and the intersections and collaborations that
generate such forces.
Concluding Thoughts: The Agency of Smell
Our reexive consideration of the phenomenology and concept work of
collaboration works together with our commitment to take the mushroom seriously
as a collaborator in our research. This is the heart of our use of the metaphor of
‘mycorrhizal relations’. We want to learn from the mushroom as well as each
other. However, we are aware that this forces us to consider forms of agency and
relation rarely noticed in anthropology. What kinds of sensual and conceptual
responsiveness on our parts include matsutake?
Consider smell. People and animals appreciate matsutake for its smell.
Matsutake, in turn, attracts useful predators through smell. Smell is a form of
chemical agency – a relation established through chemical bonds. We smell as
our neurosensors react to volatile chemicals; matsutake emits volatile chemicals
to communicate with potential predators, who willy-nilly spread their spores.
Chemical bonds are agential in other ways as well. Matsutake and their host trees
respond to each other and to soil bacteria, nematodes, and slugs through an
exchange of chemicals.6 The question of non-human responsiveness has enlivened
the study of human-animal relations (‘And say the animal responded?’, asks
Derrida 2003); perhaps this question is equally important in appreciating wider
ecologies. Chemical interactions, including smell, offer one register of relationality
in which humans and non-humans, alike, can participate.
Yet cultural differences are particularly marked in considering smell. Thus,
for example, white North Americans distance themselves from smells; white
pickers in Oregon generally describe the smell of matsutake as distasteful. White
pickers who eat the mushrooms disguise the smell by smoking or pickling them.
To immerse oneself in questions of smell requires a multi-cultural palette whether
one is considering humans or non-humans. Multi-sited ethnography, with its
ability to follow ‘smells’ across diverse natural-cultural landscapes, is particularly
useful to develop such a palette. Attention to multiple forms of human-non-human
relationships in different geocultural sites is essential, we argue, to this intriguing
task. In our project, smell opens up multiple linked sites of exploration, from
Japanese non-verbal semiotics to multi-cultural and multi-natural ecologies.
Mushrooms remind us: We are all collaborators. Just because matsutake is not
cultivated does not mean it does not collaborate with humans and other beings.
Rather, matsutake urges us: Strain to nd lines of connection. Just as matsutake
forms relations with host trees in its essential becoming, strong collaboration
makes us remember that all becoming is relational. Taking non-humans – not just
6 Wood and Lefevre (2007) have shown that one of the aromatic components of the
North American matsutake smell repels slugs.
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fungi but also trees, animals, and climate – as collaborators stimulates surprise and
wonder. Non-human forms of recognition are not our forms. Thus they open up the
frameworks through which we appreciate relationality.
The challenge of taking mushrooms as collaborators brings us back, then,
to multi-sited ethnography. All ethnographers ght against the social scientic
tendency to know what we are looking for in advance – and thus to blind ourselves
to what turns out to be interesting. ‘Immersion’ has been the ethnographer’s
weapon against the problem of social scientic blindness, but multi-sited work
makes full immersion less practical and more conceptually challenging. Multi-
sited ethnographers must struggle to hold on to a studied openness about what
matters and how, despite supercially similar phenomena across varied sites.
Strong collaboration is a useful tool for this task. Strong collaboration, through its
very difculty, keeps us alert to the lessons of what Marilyn Strathern (2004, 38)
calls ‘compatibility without comparability’, that is, the constant work of making
connections within the recognition of difference. The multi-sited ethnography we
advocate never solidies into a well-dened comparative grid. It must instead
grow interactively. The challenge is to keep shifting our knowledge of the research
object as we learn from the collaborative process.
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Faier, L. (forthcoming), Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking
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... Collaborative Event Ethnography (CEE) builds on insights from multi-sited ethnography (Marcus, 1995) (Choy et al., 2009a(Choy et al., , 2009b, 1 team ethnography (Erickson and Stull, 1998), and institutional ethnography (Billo and Mountz, 2015;Smith, 1987Smith, , 2006. It examines how actors who are normally dispersed in time and space come together at international conferences to facilitate, structure, and disseminate conservation paradigm shifts. ...
... Though international agreements are still premised on the central role of the state and related multilateral institutions, the rise of neoliberalism as a political and economic reform agenda has intersected with a populist agenda for stakeholder participation such that non-state actors increasingly participate in what was formerly state-to-state policy-making (Ferguson and Gupta, 2002;Swyngedouw, 2003Swyngedouw, , 2005. Concurrently, as binding legal agreements have been replaced or supplemented by voluntary 1 The term collaboration is used in two distinct ways in the literature on ethnography: (1) to refer to collaboration between researchers and the communities of people being researched ('consultants') to support the co-production of knowledge (Lassiter, 2004(Lassiter, , 2005 and (2) to refer to collaboration among researchers (Choy et al., 2009a(Choy et al., , 2009b, particularly in 'team ethnography'. We adopt the latter definition in our work. ...
... Similarly, those pursuing ethnography in the context of globalization have constructed studies across multiple, interrelated sites (Marcus, 1995). Our approach to studying multiple events builds on these scholars as well as the creative approaches used by multi-sited institutional ethnographers, who trace the movement of concepts, programs and politics across transnational networks (Bebbington and Kothari, 2006;Bebbington et al., 2007;Lewis et al., 2003); those using collaborative multi-sited ethnography (Choy et al., 2009a(Choy et al., , 2009b; and team ethnography, in which team members collaborate formally on all aspects of research, including data collection, interpretation, analysis, and writing, while focusing on a shared research objective or purpose (Erickson and Stull, 1998). ...
As the configuration of global environmental governance has become more complex over the past fifty years, numerous scholars have underscored the importance of understanding the transnational networks of public, private and nonprofit organizations that comprise it. Most methodologies for studying governance emphasize social structural elements or institutional design principles and focus less attention on the social interactions that generate diffuse, hybrid regimes. Yet capturing the dynamics of these networks requires a relational methodology that can account for a range of elements that constantly shift and change relative to overlapping institutional boundaries. Collaborative Event Ethnography draws on insights from multi-sited, team, and institutional ethnography to assemble teams of researchers to study major international conferences, which offer important political spaces where public, private, and nonprofit actors align around sanctioned logics and techniques of governance. Drawing on insights generated from these conferences and field sites across the globe, we trace the constitutive forces behind paradigm shifts in biodiversity conservation, specifically the interconnected rise of market-based approaches, global targets, and new conservation enclosures. We show how the iterative refining of the methodology over five events generated an increasingly robust understanding of global conservation governance as processual, dynamic, and contingent, constituted through constantly shifting assemblages of state and nonstate actors, devices and narratives that collectively configure fields of governance. Finally, we reflect on how our team, as an evolving combination of researchers, research interests, and data collection tools—itself an assemblage, —has informed the continual refinement of the methodology and generated novel understandings of global conservation governance.
... We also differentiate between forms of collaboration characterized by a division of labor among researchers, where the aim is the production of outputs that represent the sum of this labor, and strong collaboration, which focuses on productive tensions, difference, dialectics, multivocality, and an openness to rethinking questions, assumptions, and disciplinary relations (Choy and others 2009a;Choy and others 2009b). We share Timothy Choy and others' (2009a;2009b) commitment to strong collaboration-to exploring difference and tension, rather than simply using more bodies to divide tasks or to collect more data across more sites. In CEE, the whole is both more and less than the sum of its parts, offering multiple understandings rather than consensus. ...
... Th e result is a confusing dialogical solipsism (Choy et al. 2009) that removes the devil of analogy from the methodological toolbox. Th is is to be achieved fi rst, by overinterpreting individually collected empirical data that are not part of any shared questioning or not related to other research (for instance when Tsing equates mushrooms gathered in Oregon to trophies of freedom sacrifi ced at the altar of the free market; see below); and second, by establishing mycorrhizal relations between the fungi and host trees as an analogical model of symbiotic functioning for this collaborative research. ...
Full-text available
Moore, Jason. W. 2015. Capitalism in the web of life: Ecology and the accumulation of capital. London: Verso. Tsing, Anna. L. 2015. Th e mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
... Wright et al., 2012) and other kinds of life (e.g. Choy et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
Photovoice has been widely used as a participatory visual research methodology within the social sciences and health research. Given photovoice’s critical and pedagogical potential, its advancement within Indigenous resilience and health research has been particularly prevalent. However, it has largely failed to problematize the concept of ‘voice’ to the extent of theorizing and engaging with the ‘voices’ of other kinds of life with consequences for theory and method. In this paper we re-examine the methodological potential and utility of photovoice methods to include other-than-human ‘voices’ during the empirical study of place-making, human-nature relations, and resilience and health. We analyze photo-narratives from a community-based, participatory research project involving Indigenous youth in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in order to revisit 1) what we did to produce those images and 2) what we saw and heard in images. Our results suggest that when photovoice methods consider a relational and affective understanding of subjective reality during research practice, they have the capacity to capture and handle other-than-human ‘voices’. Accordingly, we discuss future directions when adapting photovoice methods for the study of environmental repossession and dispossession within contested contexts of and encounters with methodological complexity, uncertainty, and emergence.
... We also differentiate between forms of collaboration characterized by a division of labor among researchers, where the aim is the production of outputs that represent the sum of this labor, and strong collaboration, which focuses on productive tensions, difference, dialectics, multivocality, and an openness to rethinking questions, assumptions, and disciplinary relations (Choy and others 2009a;Choy and others 2009b). We share Timothy Choy and others' (2009a;2009b) commitment to strong collaboration-to exploring difference and tension, rather than simply using more bodies to divide tasks or to collect more data across more sites. In CEE, the whole is both more and less than the sum of its parts, offering multiple understandings rather than consensus. ...
Although increasingly common in the academy, collaboration is not yet the norm in human geography. Drawing on insights from ten years of experience with collaborative event ethnography (CEE), we argue that strong approaches to collaborative fieldwork offer rich opportunities for human geography. CEE involves teams of researchers conducting fieldwork together at large international events, collaborating on all aspects of the research process from research design to analysis and writing. This paper considers the benefits and challenges of CEE. Some of the benefits associated with strong collaborative fieldwork include: robust, collective interpretation of embodied data that makes room for difference, intellectual and social support for individual researchers, professional development and mentoring, and adaptability. I typically separate items in a list following a colon with semi‐colons – if GR style uses commas, then next sentence should be edited to do the same Challenges encompass collectively interpreting data produced through individual, embodied experiences; managing team dynamics related to seniority, gender, and disciplinary training; meeting professional and institutional expectations and norms; valuing and recognizing individual contributions; and ensuring sufficient funding to support team preparation, data collection, and analysis. Strong collaborative approaches to fieldwork, like CEE, can cultivate slow scholarship and innovative knowledge production. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Global environmental negotiations have become central sites for studying the interaction between politics, power, and environmental degradation. This book challenges what constitutes the sites, actors, and processes of negotiations beyond conventional approaches and provides a critical, multidisciplinary, and applied perspective reflecting recent developments, such as the increase of actor diversity and the digitalisation of global environmental meetings. It provides a step-by-step guide to the study of global environmental negotiations using accessible language and illustrative examples from different negotiation settings, including climate change, biodiversity, and ocean protection. It introduces the concept of 'agreement-making' to broaden understanding of what is studied as a 'site' of negotiation, illustrating how diverse methods can be applied to research the actors, processes, and order-making. It provides practical guidance and methodological tools for students, researchers and practitioners participating in global environmental agreement-making. One of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project:
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Drawing on a collaborative ethnographic study of the 2016 International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress (WCC), we analyze how Indigenous peoples and local community (IPLC) rights advocates have used a rights-based approach (RBA) to advance long-standing struggles to secure local communities' land and resource rights and advance governing authority in biodiversity conservation. The RBA has allowed IPLC advocates to draw legitimacy from the United Nations system—from its declarations to its special rapporteurs—and to build transnational strategic alliances in ways they could not with participatory discourses. Using it, they have brought attention to biodiversity as a basic human right and to the struggle to use, access, and own it as a human rights struggle. In this article, we show how the 2016 WCC provided a platform for building and reinforcing these alliances, advancing diverse procedural and substantive rights, redefining key principles and standards for a rights-based conservation approach, and leveraging international support for enforcement mechanisms on-the-ground. We argue that, as advocates staked out physical and discursive space at the venue, they secured the authority to shape conservation politics, shifting the terrain of struggle between strict conservationists and community activists and creating new conditions of possibility for advancing the human rights agenda in international conservation politics. Nonetheless, while RBAs have been politically successful at reconfiguring global discourse, numerous obstacles remain in translating that progress to secure human rights to resources "on the ground", and it is vital that the international conservation community finance the implementation of RBA in specific locales, demand that nation states create monitoring and grievance systems, and decolonize the ways in which they interact with IPLCs. Finally, we reflect on the value of the Collaborative Event Ethnography methodology, with its emphasis on capturing the mundane, meaningful and processual aspects of policymaking, in illuminating the on-going labor entailed in bringing together and aligning the disparate elements in dynamic assemblages. Keywords: Human rights, global conservation governance, collaborative event ethnography, Indigenous peoples
Chapter In this paper, an interdisciplinary team of authors analyzes a series of autoethnographic trialogues addressing their approaches to teaching within and beyond gender studies environments. Sabine Klinger (education studies, social work; Austria), Nicole Pruckermayr (architecture, art, community education; Austria) and Daniela Jauk (sociology, criminal justice; Austria and US) are ethnographers, educators, and identify as feminists. They explore their sometimes similar and sometimes very different approaches of applying these intersections strategically in their feminist teaching praxes. The authors use autoethnography as method and as vehicle for analytic writing and self-interrogation in three voices. They referred to taped and transcribed trialogues and engaged ethnographic memoing for their analysis. They contextualize their experiences within the framework of “rhetorical modernization” (Wetterer, Achsen der Differenz. Gesellschaftstheorie und feministische Kritik II, Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster, 286–319, 2003) and the “new gender contract” (McRobbie, Top Girls. Feminismus und der Aufstieg des neoliberalen Geschlechterregimes, Springer, Wiesbaden, 2010) which both denote a re-traditionalization of gender discourses. Keeping in mind these contemporary developments, we explore the question of whether and how it can make sense to use feminisms in teaching and scholarly work to offensively and subversively shape and inspire critical thinking and practice. It is not our goal in this paper to present feminist teaching as a canon or part of a canon. Instead, we have developed an awareness in our trialogues that science is historically constructed along axes of inequality
No matter the combination of methods ethnographers bring to their research design and to participant observation, our pursuit to log, interpret, analyse and present the lives of those we meet is never an entirely intellectual or objective one. Ethnographic fieldwork is intimately sensory (Pink, 2015), invokes our imagination (Sparkes, 2009) and requires us to actively navigate social landscapes (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). There is a tendency for these elements to fade in terms of visibility and immediacy within the research process. For those in accord with Davies (2008), continuous reflexive labour becomes a core praxis to monitor the ways we observe and participate in this textured environment. Without this, we are left in the dark and are less able to see how we can (or should) respond to the nitty-gritty qualitative nature of ethnography. In this Chapter, two of methodological vignettes will act as entry points to unpack a set of tensions that commanded my attention during an eighteen month ethnography in Higher Education. ‘You Look Like an Ivory Tower Student’, for example, begins to troubleshoot ethnographic participation within educational environments. ‘Going Dark’, on the other hand, problematises the prioritisation of visual observations that are implicit in ethnographic tradition. Throughout these discussions a metaphor of being lured into darkness is offered as a productive orientation for ethnography.
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Understanding land-use change requires attention to local contexts and global processes. In this chapter, zooming techniques and multi-sited research are presented as two qualitative approaches that can capture both aspects of change within the same research project. This chapter describes how zooming techniques and multi-sited research enable the in-depth contextual knowledge needed in qualitative research while allowing the researcher to follow processes outwards in space and backwards in time. Practical advice and examples as well as trade-offs associated with the two approaches are also presented. It is argued that qualitative research is important in telecoupling analysis, as it allows the research to ask who, what, where, and when, in order to get to the how and the why of a certain land-use event or change.
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Urban anthropology has been simultaneously challenged and transformed as forces of globalization—variously defined in economic, political, social, and cultural terms—have been theorized as "de-territorializing" many social processes and trends formerly regarded as characteristic of urban places. Against a seemingly dis-placed cityscape of global flows of capital, commerce, commodity, and culture, this paper examines the reconfiguration of spatially and temporally dispersed relationships among labor, commodities, and cultural influence within an international seafood trade that centers on Tokyo's Tsukiji seafood market, and the local specificity of both market and place within a globalized urban setting. [Tokyo, markets, food culture, globalization]
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Department of Forest Ecology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USAReceived 10 January 2007; accepted 4 March 2007Keywords: Tricholoma magnivelare; Agaricaceae; Tricholomataceae; 3,5-Dichloro-4-methoxybenzaldehyde; 3,5-Dichloro-4-methoxybenzylalcohol; 1-Octen-3-ol; Methyl cinnamate; a-Pinene; Bornyl acetate
This dissertation examines the shifting contemporary politics of nature in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. In this dissertation, I analyze the larger social field of these politics, including relationships among local residents of protected areas, global conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Chinese officials and Chinese experts. I situate these relationships within a larger historical frame. Specifically I argue that the conservation sciences underwent a sea change during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in rethinking human-environmental relationships. I use the term epistemic thaw to describe this change, distinguishing it from Thomas Kuhn's notion of a paradigm shift. Unlike a paradigm shift, an epistemic thaw is spatially and temporally uneven. Likewise, rather than creating an absolute, wholesale shift in thinking, the epistemic thaw expanded the range of environmental understandings. Before the thaw, almost all conservation organizations saw local people as peasants; later, however, some organizations regarded certain groups as indigenous peoples with non-antagonistic relationships to the environment, who therefore deserved enhanced sets of rights. To explore this phenomenon, I examined two international conservation NGOs in Yunnan, one in Lijiang and one in Xishuangbanna Prefecture. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) held highly divergent notions of local people. Eighteen months of ethnographic and archival research reveals how, from 1987--1996, WWF moved away from its previous view of regarding local people as peasants. The study also shows how TNC, from 1998--2002, treated some groups as peasants and others as indigenous, the latter category representing a novel social category in China. While much scholarship on indigenous peoples tends to reify that category, this study traces the changes in how rural groups were understood and redefined within domestic and global arenas. The study also challenges two major assertions in the critical development literature: international organizations are able to unilaterally impose their projects, and local residents inevitably resist outside interventions. Rather, the study suggests that locals selectively engage by actively resisting and assimilating development plans, and forging potential alliances within and alongside projects. The study sheds new light on understanding transnational cultural encounters by using an approach that is attentive to difference and transformation.
Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986), the collection that marked a major new form of critique of cultural anthropology's premises, more or less excluded two critical groups whose situations neatly expose and challenge the most basic of those prem-ises: feminists and "halfies" -people whose national or cultural identity is mixed by virtue of migration, overseas education, or parentage.I In his introduc-tion, Clifford (1986a) apologizes for the feminist absence; no one mentions halfies or the indigenous anthropologists to whom they are related. Perhaps they are not yet numerous enough or sufficiently self-defined as a group.2 The importance of these two groups lies not in any superior moral claim or advantage they might have in doing anthropology, but in the special dilemmas they face,dilemmas that reveal starkly the problems with cultural anthropol-ogy's assumption of a fundamental distinction be-tween self and other. In this essay I explore how feminists and halfies, by the way their anthropological practice unsettles the boundary between self and other, enable us to reflect on the conventional nature and political ef-fects of this distinction and ultimately to reconsider the value of the concept of culture on which it depends. I will argue that "culture" operates in an-thropological discourse to enforce separations that inevitably carry a sense of hierarchy. Therefore, an-thropologists should now pursue, without exagger-ated hopes for the power of their texts to change the world, a variety of strategies for writing against culture. For those interested in textual strategies, I explore the advantages of what I call "ethnograph-ies of the particular" as instruments of a tactical humanism.
This review surveys an emergent methodological trend in anthropological research that concerns the adaptation of long-standing modes of ethnographic practices to more complex objects of study. Ethnography moves from its conventional single-site location, contextualized by macro-constructions of a larger social order, such as the capitalist world system, to multiple sites of observation and participation that cross-cut dichotomies such as the “local” and the “global,” the “lifeworld” and the “system.” Resulting ethnographies are therefore both in and out of the world system. The anxieties to which this methodological shift gives rise are considered in terms of testing the limits of ethnography, attenuating the power of fieldwork, and losing the perspective of the subaltern. The emergence of multi-sited ethnography is located within new spheres of interdisciplinary work, including media studies, science and technology studies, and cultural studies broadly. Several “tracking” strategies that shape multi-site...
Critiques of universalism require rethinking when confronted with environmental political arenas, in which the very concepts of “universality” and “particularity” are in a constant process of self-conscious deployment. In this article, I attend to the analytic and political implications of such deployments in a recent incinerator controversy in Hong Kong. I suggest that an aesthetic of local appropriateness and its formal requirement of simultaneous universal and particular truth value normalize the politics of environmental expertise such that the only legible form for counterknowledge is one of articulated knowledges. To understand how the knowledges emergent in an NGO–village collaboration were scaled, linked, and mobilized, I analyze a translation of expert knowledge and the event's metapragmatic effects. A subsequent account of unarticulated knowledges emphasizes the political-economic conditions that limit whose knowledges can count as particular in articulations of counterexpertise.