Writing collaboration

a ‘work in progress’

2f. Ian Cook et al.

with 2 comments

… a human geographer using this name since 2000 as a serious / tongue-in-cheek attempt to acknowledge the collective work that went into my / his / our / anyone’s work. First, reflecting on his auto-ethnographic/-biographical PhD (Cook 1998, 2001), ‘he’ borrowed critiques of the sovereign, linear masculinist self dominating autobiographical writing to question (his) ‘sole’ academic authorship. Then, in an academic dictionary entry (Cook et al 2004), ‘he’ argued that academics seriously addressing their ‘positionality’ and/or ‘situated knowledge’ should:

Talk about your research as partial, in both senses of the word. It’s not the whole story and it’s impossible to be ‘impartial’. Give your reader something to think with. Include other voices. Position but de-centre your own. No single, straightforward conclusions. But provide materials to think with and about. Materials full of ideas, energy, doubt, learning, life. Materials which might destabilise those oppositions. Make connections. Make a difference. Understand how difference works. Channel this in ‘politically progressive’ ways. Re-interpret some rules. Don’t write as if you’re one of those Cartesian individuals. Those “atomistic, presocial vessel(s) of abstract reason and will” (Whatmore 1997 p.38). Or the kind of individual who knows exactly who s/he is and how this makes a difference (Rose 1997). Please! You’re a collective. Like ‘Ian Cook et al.’ … Other people help you to know. Not just your research subjects. But those you mention in acknowledgements, bibliographies, film credits. And more besides. In/between particular institutional contexts (Sidaway 1997). [This is where debates about positionality and situated knowledge usually diverge. In the latter, research is not done only by ‘people’, but by socio-technical hybrids, cyborgs and actor networks. More than just people. … Tape-recorders. Passports. Paper. Other ‘co-agents’. Collectively. More thoroughly entangling the lives of selves and countless others. In fleshy ways.] Nobody and nothing is outside. Connections must be seen and made on/from the ground. New responsibilities recognised and tackled. These hybrids can imagine and do things differently. Work with/around/against those separations and binaries. Change some geographies.

So, ‘Ian Cook et al‘ is a collective subject strategically named, unlike others, to be enterable into the RAE while challenging its premises. With this persona, like hooks’, ‘we’ / ‘he’ can write more boldly, directly and/or experimentally than ‘I’ might. ”Our” / ‘his’ often ‘messy’ texts extend the limits of collaboration by drawing diverse readerships into ongoing, open-ended meaning-making processes. Inspired by hooks, ‘we’ / ‘he’ encourages and enables others to work in this way: with him, each other and others, within and beyond university settings.


Written by Ian Cook et al

September 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

2 Responses

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  1. An interesting list of writing collaborations. As a ‘rural geographer’, I find the book “Writing the rural” an interesting in this context. It contains a set of essays on rurality and is in many respects a collaborative project, as all five ‘authors’ [Paul Cloke, Marcus Doel, David Matless, Nigel Thrift and Martin Phillips] worked on the same ESRC project (which was about the ‘service classes’ in rural areas). What is different to the above example is that each ‘author’ takes a turn to write the rural. As they describe in the blurb: “each of the extended essays in the book is an attempt by each author to draw out one aspect of the ‘rural’ by drawing on different traditions in social and cultural theory”. So the writing process must have been planned collaboratively (to decide who was going to write what and how) but the authorship is obviously individually delineated, partly because of the nature of the material/ideas discussed. This, I guess, is behind the scenes collaboration. Contrasting this example again, it is often funny to read texts where you have a set of ‘authors’ at the front but where you can clearly identify different ‘author’ voices between chapters.

    Damian Maye

    February 27, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  2. From Damian Maye:

    ‘Writing the rural’ is another interesting book collaboration in this context, but with five separate ‘author’ voices (Cloke, Doel, Matless, Phillips and Thrift 1994) from one collaborative ESRC project (on rural service classes).

    Ian Cook et al

    March 10, 2009 at 9:26 pm

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