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Comparison in Anthropology
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Book description

Why and how do social and cultural anthropologists make comparisons? What problems do they encounter in doing so, and how might these be resolved? What, if anything, makes one comparison better than another? This book answers these questions by exploring the many ways in which, from the nineteenth century to the present day, comparative methods have been conceptualised and re-invented, praised and rejected, multiplied and unified. Anthropologists today use comparisons to describe and to explain, to generalise and to challenge generalisations, to critique and to create new concepts. In this multiplicity of often contradictory aims lie both the key challenge of anthropological comparison, and also its key strength. Matei Candea maps a path through that entangled conversation, providing a ground-up re-assessment of the key conceptual issues at the heart of any form of anthropological comparison, whilst creating a bold charter for reconsidering the value of comparison in anthropology and beyond.


'This witty, mind-opening and intellectually generous book is a classic in the making. Candea combines a breathtaking sweep of comparative practice and the constantly self-eclipsing waves of anthropological enquiry with a penetrating discernment of the theoretical passions that shape it and how anthropologists distinctively keep them in play. The comparative method will never be the same. It is also a gripping read!'

Marilyn Strathern - University of Cambridge

'As Matei Candea shows in this deeply thoughtful volume, anthropology has long been haunted by the sense that comparison is impossible yet indispensable. To a topic that has at times inspired the heat of polemics, at others that silence of taboo, Candea brings a voice that is calm - even wise.'

Webb Keane - University of Michigan

'Matei Candea’s book, Comparison in Anthropology: The Impossible Method, is a fascinating example of how complex, and how intellectually fortifying, the survival-revival genre can be. … As a historical primer on how anthropologists compare, and when they decide not to, the book has no rivals. I say this knowing that the publication of books and essays on comparison is endless … Candea re-articulates everything the comparative method aspires to but cannot attain. … Comparison in Anthropology is an exemplary blend of preaching and practice. Read it. Teach it. Object to it. And enjoy its incomparable effects.'

Andrew Shryock Source: History and Anthropology

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