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By 02/03/2023No Comments

By Manuela Guilherme

Comparative research is, broadly speaking, a method of analysis which entails to compare/contrast data. This is the simple description of the process, however, data are complex and contextually based which makes a linear and dichotomic analysis highly misleading, since common categories of analysis need to be translated into different conceptual, cultural and legal frameworks. If there are similarities and contrasts to be analysed, the conceptualisations and methods must be discussed and made as equivalent as possible. 

The concept of “connected sociologies” put forward by Bhambra is also helpful since it should be relevant to consider, in its backstage, how elements to be compared perceive their experiences of colonialism and postcolonialism and how they deal with the notion of decolonisation inside and outside borders. Esteban and Schneider (2008) also bring in some concepts related to the impact of emotions, namely “polarization” versus “inequalities” versus “fractionalisation” which may be important reference points for structured comparative research. It is also helpful to consider a multi-level analysis, both at micro- and macro- levels of performance, of the dynamics between inclusion and exclusion where ethnic identity competes with civic identity (Jones and Smith 2001). Trends of contemporary transnationalism and diasporas, within the context of what some scholars call a ‘post-ethnic’ Europe (Bosswick and Husband 2005), and their impact in social-cohesion in the national landscapes, cannot be overseen. Cultural diversity is a major issue, even more so in comparative research where ‘super-diversity’ (Meissner and Vertovec 2015), or ‘excessive diversity’, are often claimed, while tackling methodological issues in the analysis of different patterns and motivations towards inequality, prejudice and segregation. 

Comparative research is ultimately a pedagogical tool. Therefore, some work on comparative education is worth considering, for example, by taking into account the dialectic between the global and local which raises questions about how to compare cross-nationally an inter-national movement, settled in two different historical contexts while dealing with transversal global influences and synergies. Nevertheless, the methodologies of comparative research tend to boast from supposedly neutral and technical arguments which, in the end, are misleading and can direct analysis to biased conclusions (Dietz and Mateos Cortés 2016, p. 411). In sum, the ultimate purpose of comparative research implies not only to broaden the horizon of the topic under study, but also to disquiet remaining overgeneralised dichotomies.

Related References

Arnove, Robert F., and Carlos Alberto Torres. 2013. Comparative education: the dialectic of the global and the local. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 

Bhambra, Gurminder K, and Boaventura de Sousa Santos. 2017. “Introduction: Global Challenges for Sociology.” Sociology 51 (1): 3–10. 

Bosswick, Wolfgang, and Charles Husband. 2005. Comparative European Research in Migration, Diversity and Identities. Universidad de Deusto. 

Dietz, Gunther, and Laura Selene Mateos Cortés. 2012. “The Need for Comparison in Intercultural Education.” Intercultural Education 23 (5): 411–24. 

Esser, Frank, and Rens Vliegenthart. 2017. “Comparative Research Methods.” In The International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, 1–22. 

Esteban, Joan, and Gerald Schneider. 2008. “Polarization and Conflict: Theoretical and Empirical Issues.” Journal of Peace Research 45 (2): 131–41. 

Jones, F. L., and Philip Smith. 2001. “Individual and Societal Bases of National Identity: A Comparative Multi-Level Analysis.” European Sociological Review 17 (2): 103–18. 

Meissner, Fran, and Steven Vertovec. 2015. “Comparing Super-Diversity.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 38 (4): 541–55. 

Cite this entry as:

Guilherme, Manuela. 2023. ‘Comparative Research’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário