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Theorizing International Politics: Building Generalization, Abstractions and Theories from Empirical Data

International Relations
Political Methodology
Qualitative
P431
Kristin Anabel Eggeling
University of Copenhagen
Claudia Wiesner
Hochschule Fulda University of Applied Sciences

Tuesday 11:15 - 13:00 (25/08/2020)


Abstract

There is a growing interest in field work and ethnography in international relations and political science. This interest is often driven by the idea to ‘ground’ ones theoretical analysis in ‘practice’, and to enrich armchair arguments with lived experience from the field. The majority of discussions so far are concerned with methods, that is how political scientists do field work, and how to overcome a range of practical problems such as negotiating ‘access’. What receives less attention is how theory and method are linked to each other. This concerns at least two questions: Firstly, what kind of theory and how much of it do we require to take into the field? Different voices exist in the literature. Two extremes would be the argument that we should get rid of pre-understandings and collect ‘raw’ data through ‘pure’ induction. The other extreme would be to argue that we require a fixed general theoretical framework to recognize, navigate and use in the field. The middle ground would suggest that some pre-understandings and theoretical assumptions are useful, and others are not. Secondly, what kind of theory do we make while being in the field? Does theory work come after field work? Is it enough to observe, record, and describe what is ‘found’ in the field; or should we be concerned about making generalizations out of what we describe? For this panel, we invite researchers to reflect on their current research in the light of these questions, to discuss whether and how it is possible to argue up from the particular to the general in the study of (international) politics.

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