Second Theoretical Interlude Five Modes of Comparison

Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:
Second Theoretical Interlude Five Modes of Comparison

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Religion scholar Jonathan Z. Smith identifies five modes of social comparison: the ethnographic, encyclopedic, morphologic, evolutionary, and statistical. Each mode essentially shapes the perception of difference and similarity. This is particularly evident in the hierarchies and teleologies that form central parts of some modes, often valuing the members of one category over another because they are “higher” or “more advanced.” These modes bear examination because each form of social or cultural knowledge operative in British India–or anywhere–necessarily depends on at least one of these modes.

Keywords: comparison; classification; hierarchy; Jonathan Z. Smith; ethnographic comparison; statistical comparison; encyclopedic comparison; morphological comparison; evolutionary comparison

Chapter.  1583 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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