Photo by Victor Englebert.

Introduction

Comparison is basic to anthropology. It frames an understanding of ourselves and others. Yet anthropological comparison in the traditional sense—as involving two or more social units—seems to have gone out of fashion. This blog on comparison asks, why?

Cultural anthropology today seems to be heading in a diverse set of directions. This excites many anthropologists because it allows them to explore a range of personal interests. But the question is: Where does this ultimately leave the field? Following Yeats, we might wonder if, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold . . . what rough beast . . . slouches towards Bethlehem to be borne.”

This series considers: To what degree can comparison help bind the field together? Can it open the field to new insights, new relationships, that go beyond specific case studies? Comparison, I would suggest, draws the attention of others beyond the discipline. It encourages public appreciation of cultural anthropology’s intellectual power—how it broadens our collective understanding of the world around us, above and beyond the insights of individual cases. But that is for you, the reader, to decide.

Given the overwhelming information that continually pushes at us over the Internet, this series takes a different tack from traditional blogs. Rather than one perspective, it has four to foster thought about comparison and its relevance to the problems the field faces today. Please take this series as food for thought, as offering points to ponder.

Posts in This Series

Where Have the Comparisons Gone? (Should We Blame the Grinch?)

Where Have the Comparisons Gone? (Should We Blame the Grinch?)

Let me set out the facts of the mystery as I understand them. (Later, I will explain the reference to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch.) Comparison has been part of anthropol... More

A Comparative Consciousness

A Comparative Consciousness

Comparative methodologies should include the interactive aspects of the global movement of people, goods, and ideas. The term comparative consciousness implies ... More

Comparison: The Impossible Method?

Comparison: The Impossible Method?

While I agree with a number of Robert Borofsky's concerns in his piece for this series, I would suggest a slightly different reading of the problem, and hence o... More

A Decline of Intellectual Argument

A Decline of Intellectual Argument

Comparisons are clearly important as a way of asking questions. But comparison does not necessarily help in answering them. Comparison is important and useful i... More