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Comparative uncertainties: comparing comparisons in anthropology and animal behaviour science

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Much has been made in recent years of the way in which anthropological confrontations with alterity can generate productive conceptual uncertainty. This methodological device can be thought of as a type of ‘frontal’ comparison in which a ‘them’ position is confronted to an ‘us’ position. This paper contrasts frontal comparison with lateral comparisons, in which different cases are laid side by side. Frontal and lateral comparisons produce different and complementary dynamics of conceptual uncertainty and productive doubt. This anthropological pair is in turn compared with and read through two different ways of managing uncertainty in a different discipline: the study of animal behaviour.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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