January 23, 2020
11:00am to 12:30pm
Haines 279

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Beyond the Case: The Logics and Practices of Comparative Ethnography

Oxford University Press, 2020

Corey Abramson, Associate Professor, University of Arizona

Neil Gong, Junior Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows

 (Reach out if you'd like to meet individually.)



 How do ethnographers engage in comparison, and how do they ground their methodological and analytical choices? Do these comparative logics align with or diverge from the methodological foundations of other forms of social scientific research? This talk addresses these questions by analyzing comparative ethnographies from a variety of traditions such as phenomenology, interpretivism, grounded theory, the extended case method, positivism, and “post-positivist” realism. By honing in on how ethnographers render sites, groups, or cases analytically commensurable and comparable, we offer a new lens for examining the assumptions and payoffs of various approaches to field research. We highlight not only points of divergence, but also synergy with other empirical methods, and between competing approaches to ethnography. Rather than argue for a singular vision of “ethnography,” we leverage the field’s epistemic and practical diversity to expand opportunities for meaningful comparisons on a broad range of substantive topics. We conclude by showing why these ethnographic comparisons can make crucial contributions to sociology’s “big tent” methodological pluralism as a whole.