Journal article Open Access

The Utility of Comparative Area Studies for Historical Analysis

Ahmed, Amel

While focusing on particular countries or regions is indispensable for accumulating substantive knowledge, there are also costs to not stretching beyond a given geographic region when taking on “big” questions in the study of politics. The recent volume, Comparative Area Studies: Methodological Rationales and Cross-Regional Applications (Ahram, Köllner, and Sil 2018) identifies comparative area studies (CAS) as a distinct research strategy occupying unique intellectual spaces within the social sciences. As the contributions to the volume demonstrate, CAS has distinct advantages for developing mid-range theory, offering novel empirical findings and a different mode of triangulation. Such works can also serve an important disciplinary function by bringing into dialogue scholars that may be siloed off into various research communities. Moreover, they advance an important intellectual agenda in offering a mode of research that problematizes and denaturalizes our conceptions of geographical areas, and indeed, our understanding of what it means to compare. 

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