Murphy, Keith M., McDonald, Fiona and Cantarella, Luke. "Collective Hunchwork." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, July 27, 2017.


Created date

July 3, 2018

Critical Commentary

Abstract: Collaboration has its benefits. Working together with others toward a shared goal can make specific tasks go more quickly, for example, while introducing a range of different perspectives can minimize tunnel vision and maximize potentially fruitful contributions. Indeed, one of the foundational ideologies of a push for collaboration in different contexts, including in anthropology, is the simple premise that toiling together will inevitably result in something more than if one were just to go it alone. That “something more” will, it is assumed, always be straightforwardly good.

Collaboration can also be a little risky. Certain collaborators may be useful because of their expertise or connections, but they may also be difficult to work with. Individuals surrender some control to work in pairs or a group, and the practicalities of collaboration, especially for projects that extend over long periods of time, can be exhausting, distracting, or even counterproductive. For ethnographers accustomed to working alone—or socialized not to think of their ethnographic work as collaborative—toiling together can feel more like a burden than a blessing.