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Our aim in this short article is to open up issues around generalising in social science research. We counter-point a tendency to evidence explanatory hypotheses by way of adding up specific ‘confirmations’, with the radically different approach of arriving at understandings of ‘world-making’ through sustained contemplation of the lone instance. What we are putting into question is the modernist insistence on attaching a valuation of ‘one’ to any incident or event: to denote a particular instance as a ‘specific case’, a ‘single example’, a ‘one-off’. This is not just because the one-off can be dismissed as irrelevant, to be treated as either something of little or no account, or as the deviation that proves the rule. Rather, as ethnographers in different fields, we both cherish the value of the exemplar, the moment, incident or instance that sums up what is going on and which seems to throw everything else into light
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Methods
EditorsCelia Lury, Patricia Clough, Una Chung, Rachel Fensham, Sybille Lammes, Angela Last, Mike Michael, Emma Uprichard
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • generalising

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