Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 11: Comparative political analysis and the interpretation of meaning

Jean-Pascal Daloz

Abstract

This chapter engages the cultural realm of meaning with the study of comparative politics. Taking the departure from a criticism of several schools of thought in comparative politics within both the universalist and relativist paradigms, the chapter introduces an inductive methodology based on the thick description of locally meaningful codes within their historical and socio-cultural context. It argues that the interpretation of meaning constitutes a new form of scientific reasoning likely to offer comparative insights and not, as is frequently believed, simply add contextual knowledge. Drawing on different interpretations of meanings of political representation in Scandinavia, Nigeria and France, this chapter shows how representation is lived, performed, and understood within culturally rich local contexts.

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