The Refiguration of Spaces and Methodological Challenges of Cross-Cultural Comparison

Keywords: figurational sociology, cross-cultural comparison, sociology of space, spatial analysis, refiguration of spaces, quantitative research, qualitative research, historical sociology, mixed methods

Abstract

In most reflections on cross-cultural comparison, scholars assume that "cultures" can be relatively clearly demarcated spatially and that "space" itself is a given entity. However, theories such as the theory of refiguration of spaces have stressed both that it is important to deconstruct the category "space" itself and that social processes have been characterized by major spatial transformations since the mid-twentieth century. Based on this idea, in two FQS thematic issues scholars from various disciplines will ask what consequences the refiguration of spaces has for cross-cultural comparison and what one can methodologically learn from research on cross-cultural comparison about the analysis of refiguration of spaces. In the first issue, authors from sociology and historical sciences are focusing mostly on the methodological issues. In this article, we provide a frame for this debate by ordering the earlier discussion on cross-cultural comparison along four questions: Why do we compare? Who or what are we comparing where and when? How can we compare? What methodological conclusions can be drawn from the debate on cross-cultural comparison concerning the analysis of social processes across different spatial scales and time layers in order to assess causality?

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Author Biographies

Nina Baur, Technische Universität Berlin

Nina BAUR is professor for methods of social research at Technische Universität Berlin, director of the "Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability" (GCSMUS) at Technische Universität Berlin and member of the methods lab of the Collaborative Research Center "Refiguration of Spaces" (CRC 1265), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Furthermore, she is past president of the Research Committee on Social Science Methodology (RC33), board member of the Research Committee on Historical Sociology (RC56) of the International Sociology Association (ISA), and managing editor of the journal Historical Social Research (HSR). Her research fields include social science methodology, process sociology, spatial sociology, and economic sociology.>

Stephen Mennell, University College Dublin

Stephen MENNELL is professor emeritus of sociology at University College Dublin and an honorary professor at the University of Leicester. From 1997 to 2016, he was a member of the board of the Norbert Elias Foundation, and he is general editor of the collected works of Norbert ELIAS in English. From 2010 to 2016, he served as president of the Working Group Historical and Comparative Sociology (WG02) of the International Sociological Association which was upgraded to the Research Committee on Historical Sociology (RC56) in 2016. His research interests are sociology of food, political economy, sociological theory and figurational sociology.

Angela Million, Technische Universität Berlin

Angela MILLION, née UTTKE, is professor for urban design and urban development and director of the "Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability" (GCSMUS) at Technische Universität Berlin. Furthermore, she is member of the methods lab and principal investigator in the subproject "Education: The Spatial Knowledge of Children and Young Adults (and Its Application) in Planning Contexts" (A02) of the Collaborative Research Center "Refiguration of Spaces" (CRC 1265), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). In her research, she focuses on (participatory) urban design and Baukultur, with a special interest in multifunctional infrastructure development, cities as educational settings, children, and youth.

Published
2021-05-31
Section
The Refiguration of Spaces and Cross-Cultural Comparison I