Collaboration Series: A Conversation with Pete Benson and Noah Cohan

Entry sign to Metcalfe Park. Source:

Máire Murphy, posted on May 16, 2017

Collaboration Series: A Conversation with Pete Benson and Noah Cohan. In this post we explore how complementary areas of expertise and intellectual styles further their research and interpretation of Metcalfe Park in University City. In their MWMS essay, Pete and Noah analyze a racialized confrontation over little league baseball that occurred at the site and consider its relationship to the broader baseball culture of St. Louis. Read more about their site here.

Prior to the MWMS project, Pete and Noah had not had an opportunity to work together on scholarly research. Mutual interest in the intersection of race and sports made their collaboration on Metcalfe Park a natural fit. Pete, anthropologist by training with a recent research emphasis on sports culture, noted that Noah, with his “sports studies acumen and expertise, would be a great person to work with on this project.” Initially Noah was unsure if his scholarly interests related to the site-based orientation of the MWMS project, but he quickly found a close connection: “Pete really opened my eyes to that [connection]. I knew of Pete’s work on tobacco and through AMCS….so when he asked me to collaborate I jumped at the chance. It seemed to be a great opportunity to ….extend my interests in new directions.” According to Pete, their mutual interest in “thickening relationships around sports studies” and given that Noah is “the sports guy on campus” the collaboration is particularly productive.

In their view, Metcalfe Park lends itself to collaborative work because there is a scale of relationships at work: “there is the concrete site of Metcalfe Park, the broader culture of the Cardinals, and the history of baseball, so we could work up and down a ladder of different scales and registers, and we could parcel out who works on what for contribution.” Collaboration has been helpful in achieving that objective – connecting scales, sites, and registers – as Noah and Pete offer complementary expertise and perspectives which allow them to make those connections. Each contributes to the analysis something essential for the project. Noah explained that “Pete brought a lot of the critical architecture, such as the anti-politics notion as a framework, and the initial idea of Metcalfe Park. I think I brought the history surrounding the protests at the Cardinals game after the murder of Mike Brown, media reaction, and the sports culture studies background necessary for studying baseball.” Both contributors find they work together effectively as a team without sacrificing personal styles or priorities in the process. Noah and Pete agree that “the writing was seamless and it meshed….it flowed naturally.” If they had to come up with a term other than “collaboration” to describe their work together, “critical” is the word of choice given the imperative of expertise and insight that each author brings to the table. And to end on a baseball metaphor, the co-authors think about their collaboration “in terms of runs batted in – the idea that working together we’re able to bring a hit and score the run because the two pieces together make a meaningful whole.”

Visit our Contributors page to learn more about Noah and Pete. For additional information about the MWMS project please go to our main page.

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