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Comparison is a key tool in the social sciences. Scholars make comparisons across time and place to better understand our social and political worlds. A central technique that scholars use is often called ‘controlled comparison.’ Controlled comparisons rely on scholars holding possible explanations for the outcome of interest (e.g., revolutions or political participation) constant across different cases. This approach has been central to some of the most influential works of social science. It has helped scholars explain everything from divergent development outcomes to difference in regime type. Yet controlled comparisons are not the only form of comparison that scholars utilize to answer important questions. There is little guidance, however, for how to design or execute these comparisons or why research that does not rely on controlled comparisons can offer important insights. The goal of this edited volume is to begin to develop some of these guidelines. To do so, this volume explores two of the most fundamental questions in the study of politics: (1) why do scholars compare what they compare and (2) how do the methodological assumptions scholars make about why and how they compare shape the knowledge they produce? By answering these questions, the volume creates new resources for future students and researchers to draw upon in their efforts to advance knowledge.
To what extent can an ethnographic sensibility enhance comparison? We argue that approaching comparison with an ethnographic sensibility – that is, being sensitive to how informants make sense of their worlds and incorporating meaning into our analyses – can strengthen comparative qualitative research. Adopting an ethnographic sensibility would enhance the quality of scholarly arguments by incorporating the processes through which actors ascribe meanings to their lived experiences and the political processes in which they are enmeshed. Because social science arguments often involve accounts of individual actors’ interests, ideas, or impressions, it is imperative to place such cognitive arguments in a broader cultural context. Adopting an ethnographic sensibility requires attention not only to that context but also to the political and social meanings which make that context intelligible. We elaborate these arguments through the lens of two comparative ethnographic works: a study of political mobilization in Bolivia and Mexico and a study of vigilantism in two South African townships.
In an interview with Lisa Wedeen, one of the contemporary comparative political scientists whose work most consistently speaks to both political science and interdisciplinary audiences, the editors ask Wedeen to reflect on the role that comparison has played in her work. Wedeen is the author of three groundbreaking monographs on seemingly single cases – two on Syria and one on Yemen. Yet, in the course of the interview, it becomes apparent how profoundly comparative Wedeen’s work is. She discusses her comparison of “exemplary events” in her field sites as a method through which to draw broad lessons about politics from apparent ephemera. She discusses the comparisons she makes between ethnographic insights and political theory to tack back and forth between empirical and theoretical material with the goal of developing new ways to think about politics. And she discusses the ways in which these comparative practices make her work not just an empirical practice but also a political practice – one that makes the work of a comparative political scientist not just a career but a vocation.
Qualitative comparative methods – and specifically controlled qualitative comparisons – are central to the study of politics. They are not the only kind of comparison, though, that can help us better understand political processes and outcomes. Yet there are few guides for how to conduct non-controlled comparative research. This volume brings together chapters from more than a dozen leading methods scholars from across the discipline of political science, including positivist and interpretivist scholars, qualitative methodologists, mixed-methods researchers, ethnographers, historians, and statisticians. Their work revolutionizes qualitative research design by diversifying the repertoire of comparative methods available to students of politics, offering readers clear suggestions for what kinds of comparisons might be possible, why they are useful, and how to execute them. By systematically thinking through how we engage in qualitative comparisons and the kinds of insights those comparisons produce, these collected essays create new possibilities to advance what we know about politics.
Studying phenotypic and genetic characteristics of age at onset (AAO) and polarity at onset (PAO) in bipolar disorder can provide new insights into disease pathology and facilitate the development of screening tools.
To examine the genetic architecture of AAO and PAO and their association with bipolar disorder disease characteristics.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) and polygenic score (PGS) analyses of AAO (n = 12 977) and PAO (n = 6773) were conducted in patients with bipolar disorder from 34 cohorts and a replication sample (n = 2237). The association of onset with disease characteristics was investigated in two of these cohorts.
Earlier AAO was associated with a higher probability of psychotic symptoms, suicidality, lower educational attainment, not living together and fewer episodes. Depressive onset correlated with suicidality and manic onset correlated with delusions and manic episodes. Systematic differences in AAO between cohorts and continents of origin were observed. This was also reflected in single-nucleotide variant-based heritability estimates, with higher heritabilities for stricter onset definitions. Increased PGS for autism spectrum disorder (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), major depression (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), schizophrenia (β = −0.39 years, s.e. = 0.08), and educational attainment (β = −0.31 years, s.e. = 0.08) were associated with an earlier AAO. The AAO GWAS identified one significant locus, but this finding did not replicate. Neither GWAS nor PGS analyses yielded significant associations with PAO.
AAO and PAO are associated with indicators of bipolar disorder severity. Individuals with an earlier onset show an increased polygenic liability for a broad spectrum of psychiatric traits. Systematic differences in AAO across cohorts, continents and phenotype definitions introduce significant heterogeneity, affecting analyses.
In Majerteenia in the nineteenth century, violence – once the exception in inter-state relations in the region – evolved into a diplomatic strategy that could be instrumentalised for political and financial gain. Chapter 2 reconstructs a series of confrontations between British colonial officials and the rulers of north-eastern Somalia over Somali attacks on seaborne and wrecked ships. The Majerteen coastal elites engaged in a cycle of attacking shipwrecks and signing treaties with the British colonial rulers in Aden to increase regional recognition for their rights as coastal rulers. As the nineteenth century wore on, the British reneged on their promises, relied on duress in negotiations, and engaged in double-dealing with Sultan Uthman’s political rivals, especially a regional governor named Yusuf ‘Ali. Their treaty relations with the British echoed but modified existing agreements with other port-rulers in the region, including the Hadhramis, the Omanis and the Ottomans. By the end of the century, the Majerteen Sultanate would be split in two, carved into mutually antagonistic northern and southern spheres which continue to this day to be rivals, as can be witnessed in the tensions over the extent of Puntland and Galmudug federal states jurisdictions.