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Gaining Insight from Incomparability: Exploratory Comparison in Studies of Social Practices

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

This paper suggests an experimental approach to comparison. It is argued that comparing should be detached from the question of adequacy in order to regain it as an analytical and explorative tool. This approach is put to work by comparing boxing to computer programming. Drawing on comparisons of sports practices to other social practices by Mead and Bourdieu, the paper deploys sports comparison quite similarly. In a comparative perspective the practice of writing code for software is depicted by using means and modes of description developed from an ethnography of boxing. This serves for illuminating and understanding programming's gestural and embodied logic.

Affiliations: 1: Sociology, Freie Universität Berlin, Special Research Unit 447, "Cultures of the Performative", Grunewaldstraße 35, 12165 Berlin;, Email:


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