Tamara met Alison in a Montreal coffeeshop in June 2010. Alison was the one in a pink hat. Pink hat? Yep. She was also the only person around my age, sitting alone, in the middle of the shop. Turns out we had been ships in the night, switching provinces as we went from MA to PhD programs. Over time, the ships started tracking similar courses. We went to conferences together, we co-authored some stuff together, we worked abroad in the same country. We also hung out lots without reference to any theoretical or methodological frameworks. 

In her article on ‘friendship-as-method,’ Lisa Tillmann-Healy (2003) describes how the practices, pace, contexts, and ethics of friendship can inform qualitative inquiry. For the authors, a different sort of friendship-as-method has happened, where informal hang outs have led to a more formal research network, supported by institutional instruments such as grant funding and academic positions. For the authors, the way that friendship has informed research methods at this meta level have been crucial aspects of our careers. 

By now, the cliché of a solitary figure huddled over a stack of books in the proverbial ivory tower has essentially been eradicated. This has had both positive and negative consequences: an explosion of diverse modes of research and corresponding inquiry into the social responsibility of research, but also the increasing neoliberalization of the academy with its attendant audit culture. In this context, we all feel these competing elements of a new emphasis on collaboration, but starting from spaces of friendship have meant that some of the less pleasant or even debilitating aspects of collaboration can be negotiated through informal chats and just being together over time. 

An important event that coalesced the authors was a workshop that Tamara hosted in Banff in June 2016. The workshop was devised with specific parameters according to the conventions of event planning: x number of people, y number of meals per day, a schedule of meeting activities. But built into the schedule were many longer periods of unstructured time, unlike a typical conference or workshop. Scheduled blocks like ‘celebrating achievements,’ ‘outdoorsy activity,’ and ‘just hanging out and chilling’ offered dedicated workshop time for developing friendships as an integral part of the research collaboration. Participants were encouraged to bring along their young children. We spent extended time together at meals. We hiked, moderately. The result was a feeling in the workshop of things just clicking into place, plans being hatched (and later actually followed through), excitement generated, support developed. 
While the workshop left us with happy feelings (notation in Tamara’s diary: “My heart exploded.”), it’s important to acknowledge the simultaneous exclusionary potential of this sort of friendship-as-method. Tillman-Healy (2003) discusses the ethical considerations for participants in her version of friendship-as-method mostly along the lines of risk and harm. In our version, the risk becomes a broader one of reproducing clique-y academic culture and a white feminist perspective (see vignette white authors). These are things that the authors continue to ask each other about and work on for future events. In this case, friendship brings into relief the ambivalence of dirty methods by simultaneously facilitating collaboration and enacting exclusion. 


Tillmann-Healy, Lisa. (2003). Friendship as Method. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(5), 729–749.

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