Workshop: Ethnographic research and comparison

May 3 and 4, 2017


Comparison is fundamental for the development of explanations. Explanations generally rely on the identification of differences. In the social sciences, such differences are typically identified at the level of the state: comparative studies often tend to involve comparisons between countries, reinforcing the idea that the state is the most appropriate scale of analysis and obscuring the fact that many social phenomena are not organized within that socio-political framework. Categories of comparison that have been prevalent in anthropology, such as ‘cultures’, ‘communities’, or ‘ethnicities’ have their own problems, as they often reify these identities. Anthropology’s main method, ethnography, has made an important contribution to deconstructing such categories by pointing to their contingent nature, the many often implicit assumptions that underlie them, and the forms of symbolic or structural violence that comparative research can entail. The workshop is jointly organised by Rivke Jaffe and Erik Bähre.