Writing collaboration

a ‘work in progress’

2b. WGSG

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… the Women and Geography Study Group of the Institute of British Geographers, nine of whom wrote the groundbreaking (1984) book Geography and gender in a single, collaborative, collective voice with no individual name-checks.

In 2001, it was ‘revisited’ as a ‘Classic in human geography’ in the journal Progress in human geography. Here, one commentator – Susan Smith – explained the significance of this choice then and now:

If at the time this was a fine gesture to the way that knowledge grows, today it seems positively revolutionary. How could Britain’s Research Assessment Exercise, the USA’s tenure system, the citations’ listings, the fellowships and prizes systems or a host of other individualizing markers of esteem survive in their present form if the most important things we know were truly recognized as collaborative efforts rather than personal achievements? By playing down the individual contributors, the book gave a voice to, and claimed a space for, women as a group within the discipline (Smith 2001, 255).

In response, the authors wrote:

The collaborative writing now seems sadly Utopian in an era of auditing and heightened academic individualism. Far from wanting to speak in a unified voice … our hope then was to dislodge the notion of the singular authoritative authorial voice. By asserting the collective voice we stressed our common ground and the co-operative and experiential nature of knowledge production. Our intervention was intended as a strong (unified) act of feminist disruption. We would now agree that in so doing we simplified and displaced sharp differences in gendered experiences and between subject positions (WGSG collective 2001, 257).

So, this choice of authorial name was intended to disrupt conventions and judgements of individual / sole authorship, to claim / create a space for a group marginalised from academia, and to represent / promote more collaborative (feminist) approaches to academic practice.


Written by Ian Cook et al

September 1, 2008 at 2:09 pm

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