A two-day conference exploring sociological and anthropological concepts around comparative practice.
Qualitative social science has become uneasy about comparing: it is easily frightened by both accusations from within quantitative traditions that assert the inability of its methods to control variables precisely enough and a colonial past in which cultural comparisons had a dubious taint of racism. However, despite being a loaded term, comparisons are nonetheless routine within qualitative social science, although they are often more implicit than explicit. We perform them in conferences where we group in thematically similar panels, in more or less strident academic debates, as well as in our everyday practices as a way to understand and contextualise our own research. However, we observe that this seemingly comparative practice is rarely named as such.
Further, we also suspect — while being acutely aware of the problematic history of comparison as a social scientific activity, whether in the service of forms of reductive positivism or a hierarchy of cultures — that this history does not explain the degree of ongoing sensitivities about the value of naming certain research as comparative. More directly, we suggest that abstaining from explicit comparisons unnecessarily constrains qualitative research.
For further information and the programme of the workshop please visit http://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=5536