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Creating Comparability Differently: Disassembling Ethnographic Comparison in Law-in-Action

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Ethnographic comparison identifies and analyses core mechanisms which integrate and drive various ethnographic fields. This is exemplified here by what we term, following Luhmann, "the binding mechanism" – which we identify in criminal cases from England, the United States and Germany. By choosing criminal cases as the dynamic frames of "their" (participants') activity and "our" (observers') analysis, thick comparison questions the sources of stability found in structural comparisons of legal doctrines, namely fixed items, definite meaning, and detached contexts. This paper discusses how these features of structural comparison are replaced by more dynamic components, such as becomings, involvements, and formations.

Affiliations: 1: Emmy-Noether Group, Free University, Altensteinstr. 2–4, 14195 Berlin, Germany;, Email:


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