Apples and Oranges

Joe Deville’s blog on the recent Apples and Oranges conference on practising comparison. Extract:

Tereza Stöckelová explored some of this in her paper. She showed the effective ‘non-innocence’ of comparison, how what she called imposing the ‘frame of comparison’ involves often involving asymmetrical struggles between parties—and, importantly, that social research cannot but engage in these processes, whether it names it as such, or not. Both Hannah Jones & Ben Gidley and Marsha Rosengarten’s papers echoed these themes, in laying out possibilities for alternate comparisons to enact engagements between researchers and, for want of a better word, ‘the world out there’, along different lines. Tasked with analysing and evaluating policy interventions aimed at improving migrant integration, Hannah and Ben sought a way to successfully situate themselves within the international circulation, amongst a range of governmental actors, of competing ‘good practices’. This is a world in which comparison (of such practices) tends to be practised normatively and uncritically. But rather than avoid this tricky terrain, they sought to shift the terms of comparison to highlight the real effort needed to translate practices between settings. Marsha drew on her work on the use of randomized controlled trials in HIV prevention, to look at the potential for social science to actively introduce alternative understandings of comparison to scientists – through provocative, affectively directed visualisations or ‘diagrams’ (a term used and redeployed via Deleuze’s Foucault and work by Michael Lynch). In her case, she asked whether such work might hold the potential to challenge assumed stabilities by drawing attention to relations of movement and complexity.


Two comparators: A comparator chip and the Organizing Disaster comparator

About bengidley

Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Science, History and Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. View all posts by bengidley

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