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Theory and Imagination in Comparative Politics: An Interview with Lisa Wedeen

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2021

Erica S. Simmons
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Nicholas Rush Smith
Affiliation:
City University of New York
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Summary

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.

Type
Chapter
Information
Rethinking Comparison
Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry
, pp. 251 - 274
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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