Entangled Comparisons. Grounding Research on Asia – Expanding Research Methodologies
Date: 5 - 6 September 2019
Convenors: Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (Bielefeld, GER), Christiane Brosius (Heidelberg, GER)
This Working Group is geared at sharpening and developing research methodologies for conducting research on Asian cultures and societies. The aim is to engender sustained research and activate new collaborations among scholars from the Humanities and qualitative Social Sciences based at German universities in exchange with their colleagues working at partner institutions in different parts of Asia. The approach is to enable necessary comparative dimensions and to grasp connectivities that shape dynamics across Asia and Asia?s position in a globalised world. The applicants and the scholars involved in this Working Group engage in designing and testing research strategies and fields that allow for a synergetic approach towards various ways in and through which regions of Asia can be brought in relation to one another. The workshop addresses four major shortcomings that have characterised research on Asia, so far:
- Particularism : Most of empirically grounded (by thorough preoccupations with cultures, languages and religions) research on Asia is compartmentalised by localised, national and/ or regional perspectives, and these divisions continue to be influenced by research politics and academic funding;
- Methodical hesitancy : Over the last decades, scholars started uncovering significant interconnections within the Asian region and beyond and proposing novel research avenues, but there is a lack of systematic reflection on methodologies and epistemologies, especially in the field of tracing connectivities;
- Comparative bias : Whereas quantitative inquiries deploy comparative methods (while lacking fine-grained insights into cultural specificities), qualitative research is generally challenged when involving in comparisons. Besides, given the compartmentalised nature of research within the so-called 'small disciplines' (kleine Fächer), a number of scholars generally lacks comparative traditions;
- Epistemic disjunction : Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods have produced distinctive and often mutually exclusive data, statistics or narratives. What has so far been neglected is that comparative research opens up pathways of reflexive juxtapositions instead of hard contrasts, and enables collaborative strategies of integrative assemblages, montages and bricolages of distinct data dimensions.