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Special Themed Issue of g/s/i journal: Beside, Besides, and B-sides: Collaborations as Feminist and Decolonizing Practices. Editors: Nicoletta Marini-Maio (Dickinson College), Ellen Nerenberg (Wesleyan University), Paola Bonifazio (University of Texas at Austin).


Going it alone. The established research model, especially in the Humanities (the most common institutional location for many Italian Studies programs), has called for the lone scholar toiling in service to the monograph. This solitary scholar, as lampooned in caricature, curates their specialist subfield, has seldom engaged in public life (indeed fails to make their research “relevant” to those outside the academy), has been subject to publishing processes that result in the slow circulation of their work, and has cultivated relationships with specific sites (e.g., archives, collections, and so forth).

Sciences, mathematics, and social sciences, on the other hand, have developed systems of attribution that recognize different investments of labor and commitment.  In these fields, research is easily understood as collaborative, addressing global challenges, and having a measurable impact. STEM and social sciences colleagues prize open access journals, which favor broad, quick circulation, and accept and place importance on the metrics these journals use to evaluate circulation, citation, and impact. In other words, these publication venues are generally accepted and not perceived as “non-standard”.

For the most part, it appears that the Humanities, as a field, has relegated to the edges the sorts of collaborative research methodologies and pedagogies the social and natural sciences have long been developing. Nor does a rosier future, in which collaborative work might be embraced or endorsed,  seem to appear on the horizon, since a particularly pernicious obstacle to developing greater collaborative habits of mind concerns career development within the academy: although an emerging generation of scholars may perhaps wish to move the dial on collaborative research and their assessments, anxiety is still felt concerning how such collaborations may be “counted” in personnel reviews when assessment of the candidate’s portfolio focuses on equivalencies. For too long a time, one graduate student has produced one doctoral dissertation which is subsequently developed into one monograph whose authorship is unimpeachable. Monographs mean simple math, briefer committee meetings, and easier tabulation.

In Touching Feeling, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has mapped the sometimes rough terrain of collaborations from another perspective. Eschewing a vertical configuration in favor of intellectual exchange that encourages greater collaboration, she describes what “co-labor” is like as one occupies a space “beside” another. As she wrote,

Beside comprises a wide range of desiring, identifying, representing, repelling, paralleling, differentiating, rivaling, leaning, twisting, mimicking, withdrawing, attracting, aggressing, warping, and other relations. (8)

In addition to everything Sedgwick describes about “besides”, we are drawn also to the “b-side”, or the “flip” side of the now defunct analogue artifact known as the 45 rpm. The 45 offers a useful metaphor for a strategy of pluralizing the creation of canon as well as restoring some agency to the artist. The “A” side of history gives you the hits. The “B” side gives you the not necessarily commercializable, commodifiable artistic expression. The “b” side draws us also back to Teresa De Lauretis who, in Technology of Gender, described something similar which she called the “space off”, outside the visual, where sound emerges to disrupt the hegemony of the visual image in a cinematic context.

A review of theoretical perspectives of collaborative research reveals five, constitutive elements:

  •  Constructivism
  • Affect
  • Performativity
  • Deconstructive, decolonizing potential
  • Feminism

Collaborative work constructs knowledges through connections across subjects (researchers, students, teachers, subjects/participants) and disciplinary fields (humanities, social sciences).

Research and artistic practices require affective investment, something present also as shared affect-ion for the research topic. Affective phenomena are implicated in close interactions, dialogue, and pleasure deriving from collaboration and can also engender an opposed set of feelings: rejection, repulsion, rebellion, resistance, polemic non-acceptance.

Collaborative research is performed and relies upon embodiment, gesture, action, and connection across media.

Collaborative research can deconstruct and decolonize the kinds of territorialization, as Deleuze would call it, of tendencies that assert findings, discovery, things revealed, uncovered results, things we recognize or realize that are already there. Collaboration deterritorializes, stripping away familiarity, so that process can be more transparent.

Intersecting all the categories is feminist practice, scholarly methodology, and activism. Collaboration enacts these fundamentally feminist perspectives and affects dialogic thought, intersubjectivity, and the centrality of the desiring subject. If allowed the space and platform, everyone can/should be able to speak.

g/s/i—gender/sexuality/italy 7 (2020) invites essays studying and interventions performing collaborations as they intersect and cross research, pedagogical, and creative practices, gender and sexuality studies, and Italian Studies. Some areas that might be considered:

  • Horizontal and vertical intellectual and creative exchanges
  • Decolonizing pedagogical and research practices
  • Intersectional and interdisciplinary collaborations
  • Collaborations across space
  • Collaborations as continuum (continuing former collaborative efforts)
  • Intra and extra-academic collaborations
  • Inter-institutional collaborative models
  • Collaborative practices among affiliative groups (such as organizations, families, teams, etc.)


Submissions due: August 1 

The articles will be sent to reviewers for a process of double blind peer review, according to the g/s/i policies for guest edited volumes (see Comments and feedback will be returned to authors in fall 2020, for final editing.

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