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“What Does Heaven Ever Say?” A Methods-centered Approach to Cross-cultural Engagement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2007

Brown University


How can we conduct cross-cultural inquiry without reproducing the ethnocentric categories that prompt critique in the first place? Postcolonial and comparative political theorists have called into question the “universal” applicability of Western liberal political norms, but their critiques are drawn most often from competing Western discourses (e.g., poststructuralism) rather than from the culturally diverse traditions of scholarship whose ideas they examine. In contrast, I suggest attending to these culturally situated traditions of scholarship, especially their methods of inquiry, in addition to their substantive ideas. This method-centered approach reinterprets cross-cultural engagement, not as a tool for modifying existing parochial debates on the basis of “non-Western” cases, but as an opportunity to ask new questions through alternative frames of reference. Examining the interpretive methodologies of two Chinese classicists, I show how their methods offer not only new ideas but also new methods for the practice of political and cross-cultural theory.

© 2007 by the American Political Science Association

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