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Abstract

The objectivist truth claims traditionally pressed by most political scientists have made the use of ethnographic methods particularly fraught in the discipline. This article explores what ethnography as a method entails. It makes distinctions between positivist and interpretivist ethnographies and highlights some of the substantive contributions ethnography has made to the study of politics. Lamenting the discipline's abandonment of a conversation with anthropology after Geertz, this review also insists on moving beyond the anthropological controversies so powerfully expressed in the edited volume (1986) and other texts of the 1980s and 1990s. I contend that interpretive social science does not have to forswear generalizations or causal explanations and that ethnographic methods can be used in the service of establishing them. Rather than fleeing from abstractions, ethnographies can and should help ground them.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.052706.123951
2010-06-15
2024-06-16
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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