Collaboration Across Borders: Moving Beyond Positionality
Discussions about collaborative spaces in postcolonial feminist and geographical analyses have often hinged on questions of positionality, reflexivity and identity, largely in relation to the politics of representation. Such approaches have often led to an impasse, especially in fieldwork-based feminist research, where reflexivity has mainly focused on examining the identities of the individual researcher rather than on the ways in which those identities intersect with institutional, geopolitical and material aspects of their positionality. This kind of identity-based reflexivity does not distinguish systematically between the ethical, ontological and epistemological aspects of fieldwork dilemmas; it also fails to adequately address how our ability to align our theoretical priorities with the concerns of communities whose struggles we want to advance is connected to the opportunities, constraints and values embedded in our academic institutions. This article takes this discussion forward by arguing for a postcolonial and transnational feminist praxis that focuses explicitly and deliberately on (a) conceptualising and implementing collaborative efforts that insist on crossing multiple and difficult borders; (b) the sites, strategies and skills deployed to produce such collaborations; and (c) the specific processes through which such collaborations can find their form, content and meaning. To ground this discussion, I draw upon two collaborative initiatives that I have begun recently in the state of Uttar Pradesh, north India.
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