this quote on p15 shows the biases in the authors' purportedly non-biased analysis of comparative ethnography; it shows the cultural coding of what they takes as their non-coded, neutral social scientific analysis of social science:
On the other end of the spectrum are forms of anti-realism. Postmodern anthropology often rejects the principles central to Durkheim's positivism (Tyler 1986; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Reed 2010). Drawing on subjectivism and the egoism of strong phenomenology (i.e., Husserl 2015 [ 1931 ]), some question the notion of a real, or at least objectively knowable, external world (Husserl 2015 ; Bunge 1993). They are less concerned with correspondence or causal explanation. They find greater value in literary or aesthetic merits and deconstruction of the taken-for granted (Clifford and Marcus 1986). This is often, though not always, tied explicitly to political projects, with a belief that analysis is intimately entangled with a scholar's position (de Beauvoir 1949). In anthropology, this is tied to reckoning with their colonial legacy (Said 1991), and the Foucaultian analysis of the human sciences as key components of modern power (Rose 1998). In sociology, this is tied to a longstanding concern with inequality and domination (Collins 1990). Many eschew explanation as a chief goal or a goal at all.
There is so much wrong here, but first let's back up a paragraph. In the paragraph previous to this one they first say they are discussing "traditions," yet the only reference is to Durkheim. His social facts are "real, discernable, extra-individual phenomena," putting him on the right [sic and sic] of the ontological spectrum. Sociology is a "positive science," the one exclusively suited to its domain, "society." As a "realist and objectivist," Durkheim (and presumably those like the authors in this "tradition") "epistemic approach focuses on correspondence (i.e., models are evaluated by how they map onto facts," and explanations for him are "causal." Like other sciences, sociology produces "covering laws" that "reflect the objective nature of social reality...regardless of the values of individual researchers." Comparison's purpose is to "get at invariant principles" behind or underneath variation. All this amounts to a "social scientific positivism in the extreme."
So now to the other end of the spectrum; they left out the "extreme" descriptor but it's understood. There is more than one referent here, but they are an odd and dated assortment, probably because that's the only way they can make this completely wrong analysis work or at least appear plausible, and indeed "objective" and "real." But in fact it is far from objective, and corresponds to no reality I'm familiar with, and I should know since I am as "(Clifford and Marcus 1986)" as they come. Note that they do not use the far more popular "relativism" to denote this other "postmodern" extreme at the perverse end of this normal spectrum, but "anti-realism." In fact, "Tyler 1986" refers to "postmodern anthropology" as "a form of realism" (p137); that they get this so wrong I can only chalk up to their "drawing" on some form of their own "subjectivism." I can't make any sense of the phrase "egoism of strong phenomenology;" if anything, I would say Husserl (and what is he doing in here anyway?) was intent on bracketing egoism. But you go ahead and do your own google search and see if you can come up with anything connecting egoism to phenomenology, or any differentiation between a "strong" and I guess a "weak" form of phenomenology. I think they are not real.
Some might engage in the "deconstruction of the taken-for-granted," but certainly not Tyler, who was not a practitioner of deconstruction and, again, thought of postmodern anthropology as a "realism of the common-sense world" (p137). I think for many of us it is not a question of "value in literary or aesthetic merits," but more a matter of tthe utility and indeed necessity of the literary analysis of literary forms and genres, including the genre called "realism," employing methods such as rhetorical or discourse analysis, neither of which are discussed here.
It's true that we are interested in how "analysis is intimately entangled with a scholar's position," but there is a lot of disagreement about what constitutes a position, or how positions get constituted, and I think very few of us would reach back to 1949 even if Simone de Beauvoir was a great thinker and writer. Many of us might reach for the more recent (Collins 1990), because she and many others do indeed care about and analyze "inequality and discrimination" as real social problems, and their careful analyses, far from "eschewing" explanation, value them greatly. And we also have other "goals" we chew on ferociously, although these are not named here: thick description, new insights, fresh perspectives, provocative questions and hypotheses, etc.
perverse <-------------------> normal
this image on p14 is missing an axis that would make explicit the implicit privilegings int their article and in their edited book. Abramson and Gong state that they favor a "productive pluralism" in comparative ethnography, and the articles in their edited volume could be arranged according to these axes. But this presumes a kind of neutrality to the spectrums, and to their anchoring binary terms, in which the terms on the right are the preferred, stronger, "normal" terms (in their cultural coding system) while those on the left are the less desirable, weaker, "perverse" terms
AO: A discursive risk in this analysis is the assumption of intellectual partners among “elite” communities. I think the example of “professionalized” Kibera research subjects who have developed critical perspectives and analytics about the work of researchers on them and could also be interesting intellectual partners with whom a collaborative engagement could happen if executed with nuance and sensitivity (and long standing commitment to the site). If such a case could be enacted, I think it could fit many of the conditions noted by the analysts but provide an alternative to the types of communities they give as examples and open up an interesting way of rethinking some of even those “older” more “traditional” anthropological projects.
AO: Going back to the “same subjects” that Anthropology has long been interested in (the development subject) perhaps with this approach advocated by Holmes and Marcus could possibly change the type of work and collaboration. The analysts write: “we must first meet expectations that anticipate what ethnography might mean for them and for us” (83) as if this is unique to working with elites but I believe this must also be a key part of good (ethical) research more generally. I think instead of the notion of collaboration with “elites,” another terms they use, “found reflexive subjects” could better categorize this kind of important work and broaden beyond assumptions of a particular economic class of people or occupation.
AO: The analysts assume that strategies of creativity and innovation are needed to move the field forward and further improve public health science and practice (S243).
AO: This analysis looks for “valid” and “stable” metrics to evaluate the “return on investment” of team science.
AO: QUOTE: “Systematically tracking the career development trajectory of transdisciplinary trainees over time and examining the influence of earlier transdisciplinary training on their subsequent productivity will ultimately help to gauge the “returns” on team science investments at both individual and societal levels” (S247).
AO: The analysts call for more flexiblity in incentive structures but not in the ways of opening up and pluralizing but rather in terms of acknowledging, legitimating and supporting transdisciplinary work within the existing systems (not a radical vision but more of solidifying the legitimacy of this new transdisciplinary field).
AO: The analysts believe that collaboration is particularly important right now because the “grand, complex, and wicked challenges of today’s world necessitate new coalitions of actors from a wide variety of knowledge and action domains” (1). Nonetheless, they also note that “critically reflecting about potential collaborative synthesis, rather than pursuing it as a good in and of itself” (8) is also very important. The paper is written at the middle of an on-going project so they focus on the “how” of enabling collaborative synthesis rather than just making a case for it or assessing its impacts. The analysts appear to be most interested in how to facilitate collaborative synthesis (rather than just “connecting people”).
AO: The analysts are very strong at the nano, meta, macro levels. They are largely missing an eco level of analysis (at least as expressed in this genre which was targeting natural scientists). They are focused on research that has already been done and how to get feedback from the community. In some ways this sounds like my idea for a community advisory commitee (in parallel to a PhD academic advisory commitee). I do wonder where the exact data collected was stored or how the infrastructure question is dealt with. I thought the paper would be on how to build a data base that was housed/managed/stored by the community themselves but they did not actually go into that side of the data, rather, they focused on the politics of data and where it was circulated. They did not talk about where it was stored and kept.
There was an underlying assumption that communities know what is best for themselves. I believe this was a known assumption (to push back against a more traditional IRB which is very paternalistic and assumes that communities do not know what is best for them per say). But given the target audience (natural scientists), the analysts did not make this explicit.
AO: Analysts do not provide a “right answer” at the end of their fictitious stories, highlighting their assumption that there is not one right way to tackle the ethics involved. Nonetheless, they have “learning objectives” identified in the index of case studies at the back of the book. For example, the data trouble chapter notes: “To explore access to, use, and ownership of participants’ health data in collaborative medical research, and through this to reflect on collaboration between unequal partners.”
AO: The analysts hold that collaborative relationships will also (always?) necessarily involve ethical challenges (in the context of research).
AO: Analysts believe that successful collaboration (which has strong dialogue and deliberation) creates a wide range of relations that now only allow for science but also growth of personal relations which then produce even “better science” (235). Analysts argue for this process of “long-term engagement across difference.”
AO: This is a discourse analysis of the way that organizational theorists are thinking about collaboration (authors map nine papers over 6 domains of collaboration to examine which parts of collaboration are studied; similar to the orals doc exercise we are also conducting!). Analysts are thinking about collaboration in terms of autonomy (see nano) amongst largely equal stakeholders who can negotiate on equal footing. They do not take into account unequal power symmetries nor do they consider multi-stakeholder relations (individuals, multinationals, activists, etc.) in one collaborative formation (probably because they are working within and towards organizational theory?) They rely on concepts of resource dependency and competitive advantage to describe how/why collaborative alliances may happen (not because of shared principles or values per say but rather for competitive advantage; control complexity and turbulence).
AO: An important idea from this paper is what they call a “commonality of experience”: the process of building a joint appreciation enables all stakeholders to increase their understanding of the problem by learning the desired and intended actions of others. (160)
AO: The analysts of this short piece are engaged in a collaborative project but do not necessarily describe explicitly the collaborative processes themselves, so it is hard to say concisely what is collaborative although it is assumed the collective decision-making regarding Somatosphere that is the collaborative aspect. They focus largely on questions of the value of labor and how to value volunteer labor in relevant ways other than financial capital. The analysts underline that open access should not be the goal in and of itself but should be about the values of the academic work: values of mutual respect, equity, intellectual generosity, difference, and care. However, they do not go into detail on the practices that fit such values and so it is still unclear exactly what they describe by the term “respectful.” Does this entail agreeing to disagree or simply coming to agreement? They value “diversity” within the boundaries of the shared values put forward. They put the values forward as if they are quite stable values and intuitive notions.
AO: The author calls for more reflection on the intertwining of multi-textual forms of knowledge production to see how multi-textuality can address the complexity of the ‘global’ world, understood as a process of cultural, physical, socio-economic and political intertwining in which the mapping of inequality is simultaneously ever present and shifting. Her focus is on what can be learned from the field of indigenous studies towards the goal of decolonizing anthropology. She describes several kinds of collaboration - collaboration between “indigenous studies” and “anthropology” as academic fields; collaboration between her and a research partner on a specific project; collaborations between engaged anthropologists and indigenous communities more broadly. Many of her points hold true for studied communities rather than just when one is working with “indigenous” communities so I wonder why she makes the distinction. I find the analyst’s macro level of analysis strongest as she describes the context under which the field of anthropology has formed and grappled with “engagement” with interlocutors. She is lacking in any analysis at the data level and missing an eco level.