Comparison is a valuable and widely touted analytical technique in social research, but different disciplines and fields have markedly different notions of comparison. There are at least two important logics for comparison. The first, the logic of juxtaposition, is guided by a neopositivist orientation. It uses a regularity theory of causation; it structures the study by defining cases, variables, and units of analysis a priori; and it decontextualizes knowledge. The second, the logic of tracing, engages a realist theory of causation and examines how processes unfold, influenced by actors and the meanings they make, over time, in different locations, and at different scales. These two logics of comparison lead to distinct methodological techniques. However, with either logic of comparison, three dangers merit attention: decontextualization, commensurability, and ethnocentrism. One promising research heuristic that attends to different logics of comparison while avoiding these dangers is the comparative case study (CCS) approach. CCS entails three axes of comparison. The horizontal axis encourages comparison of how similar policies and practices unfold across sites at roughly the same level or scale, for example across a set of schools or across home, school, religious institution, and community organization. The vertical axis urges comparison across micro-, meso-, and macro-levels or scales. For example, a study of bilingual education in the United States should attend not only to homes, communities, classroom, and school dynamics (the micro-level), but also to meso-level district, state, and federal policies, as well as to factors influencing international mobility at the macro-level. Finally, the transversal axis, which emphasizes change over time, urges scholars to situate historically the processes or relations under consideration.
Lesley Bartlett and Frances Vavrus
Ethnography is about cultural representation, which implies a gaze and set of questions and assumptions about who is being represented, by whom, and what for. In this sense, ethnography always is conducted across borders where borders imply a set of differences to confront and understand, even while the ethnographer is expected to effectively overcome these through embedded practice in the field. If the enterprise of conducting these studies is always marked by border crossing, then what are the different ways in which border crossings happen in knowledge production through ethnography? How does the definition of “border” change the way ethnographic studies are performed? Potential shifts in the meaning of “borders” heightens the importance of interrogating cultural representation, the social locations that ethnographers occupy, see, and speak from, and how perspectives on cultural representation and actual representations will differ. These dynamics build up when, as here, ethnography across borders implies the presence of the nation-state, either as palimpsest or direct actor in the relations and daily lives of the community-participant in the ethnography. Borders are necessarily evoked—geopolitical, social, cultural, national, regional, global, and personal ones, such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity. Ethnography across borders emerges in this instance as a methodology and a stance to deconstruct the ways in which ethnographers and ethnographies are radically situated in their own histories, and how radical contextualization of those histories is required to understand across borders and uncover the limits of cultural representation, language, and ethnography as a tool to understand the lives of people, their histories, and communities.
Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz
The development of inclusive educational practices and their current practices differ significantly between the North American nations of Canada and the United States. Although these countries do share similarities in both theoretical underpinnings and educational programming, the current differences in policy oversight nationally and at the provincial and state levels promote a wider range of policy and programmatic differences across Canada than in the United States. Governance structures, the resulting policies, and their similarities and differences between and within these countries serve as foundations that underpin innovative inclusive educational programming in each country. The interplay between legislation and activism has both reflected and provoked the movement away from special education and toward inclusive education to varying degrees in both Canada and the United States.
The landscape of history of education has become transformed by approaches that up-end traditional assumptions of the vertical unidirectionality of power, policy, and discourse. These have been displaced by notions of relational comparison and crisscrossing entanglements that draw on Lefebvrian ideas of space and time. These ideas help to provide a sense of how the landscape of education can be understood as both a material and symbolic space, as apprehended, perceived, and lived space, in which social relations are constituted and constitutive of everyday realities. The history of South African education, and specifically its teacher education colleges, exemplifies how landscape can be defined and understood as such spaces. Its history can first be apprehended through different conceptual and historiographical approaches, taken over time, for understanding it. Second, the emergence of specific types of institutions, within colonial political, economic, and social frameworks that defined their physical location and unequal structure in terms of racially segregated and often gender-differentiated spaces, assists in an understanding of these as colonial remnants. The historical landscape of education remains as restructured and reconfigured spaces, in which institutions live on as much in social relations as in memory and in actual, but highly altered physical conditions. As lived spaces, third, historical landscapes of education also embodied learning spatial imaginaries, deeply ambivalent memories of formal and hidden curricula, of formative and shaping years, and as such become landscapes of memory and identity.