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Gadamer has made a tremendous contribution to twentieth century thought, for he has proposed a new and different model of understanding and understanding in the human sciences that carries us beyond the dilemma of ethnocentrism and relativism. This model is not that of a “science” that grasps an object but rather one of speech-partners who come to an understanding together. Three important features of understanding are (1) it is bilateral in character, (2) it is party dependent, and (3) it involves revising goals. It follows that there is an important difference between the human sciences and the natural sciences. Important to Gadamer’s model of the human sciences is the “fusion of horizons.” This chapter discusses the proximity of Davidson and Gadamer and their differences.
We outline the place of fieldwork in comparative interpretive research. Detailed qualitative fieldwork is central to most interpretive research, but practical guidance on how to navigate the field remains rooted to the idiographic tradition. The presumption is one of sustained immersion in a discrete setting. Interpretive comparison, however, necessarily requires partial immersion across multiple sites in shorter, more interrupted bursts. We call this yo-yoing. Crucially, the researcher must be alert to the surprises and moments of epiphany that can challenge initial assumptions and open new possibilities. We seek here to develop and illustrate key ‘rules of thumb’ that will enable researchers to manage the challenges and maximise the opportunities.
We look at the craft of writing. Although we discuss the challenges of writing that confront all social scientists, we focus on the dilemmas of writing up comparative interpretive research – dilemmas which we confront because we speak to a broader range of audiences. In doing so, we highlight the importance of seeing writing as integral to the research process, not something that starts once the research is done. We identify the rules of thumb for writing both linear and evocative narratives and discuss the dilemmas encountered in both approaches.
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