Writing collaboration

a ‘work in progress’

2d. Retort…

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…. “a gathering of some thirty or forty antagonists of the present order of things, based for the past two decades in the San Franciso Bay Area” (Retort 2005, xi). Through the writing work of four members (Iain Boal, T.J. Clarke, Joseph Matthews and Michael Watts), RETORT produced a (2005) book called Afflicted powers; capital and spectacle in a new age of war. This, according to one review, aimed to link “a ‘Situationist’ concern with spectacle in modern society, with a hard-hitting critique of the war in Iraq and US imperialism in the ‘poisonous epoch we are living through'” (Doolittle & Batterbury 2007, np). Both the group and the four were credited with authorship, and the introduction explained how they had worked together:

“The book builds on Retort’s broadsheet, Neither their war nor their peace [link 1 link 2], produced for distribution at the anti-war demonstrations in the spring of 2003. … After preparatory work by the four of us separately and together, each one of the quartet took responsibility for the first drafting of a chapter. Every paragraph was then subjected to scrutiny, discussion, and multiple revisions by all four. The book developed from a counterpoint of concerns, kinds of knowledge and forms of expertise, and in the end we made no attempt to produce a text with a singular voice or seamless style. We ask the reader’s indulgence, therefore, for a certain shifting of focus and tone in what follows, confident that the conditions of the book’s production contribute to, rather that detract from, Afflicted Powers‘ analytical force (Retort 2005, xi).

Reviews of the book say little or nothing about the significance of this collective authorship, which appears to have been a purely practical issue: four members of a group taking responsibility for one aspect of its collective work, drawing on their skills and reputations as activists/writers to do so.


Written by Ian Cook et al

September 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

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