Bettina Fritzsche, Christina Huf

The benefits, problems and issues of comparative research: An ethnographic perspective – edited by Bettina Fritzsche and Christina Huf

Building on the sociological concept of making the familiar strange, educational ethnography is usually conducted in educational settings of the ethnographers’ own school-system. Having focused their attention on understanding their own education system, ethnographers often have to re-establish ethnography´s skill of making the strange familiar. While the concepts of ‘otherness’, ‘strangeness’ or ‘familiarity’ always rely on implicit comparisons, educational ethnographers have only recently started to tackle the question as to how to explicitly compare observations and findings across different fields.
This publication explores our understanding of making the strange familiar through comparative approaches in ethnography from educational research carried out in England and Germany. The introduction consists of a review of some past comparative ethnographies. Section One presents four ethnographic research projects which build on the anthropological idea of making the strange familiar. Researchers from England, Germany and Austria, carried out research in another country other than their own. Bettina Fritzsche, Christina Huf and Andrea Raggl, from Germany and Austria carried out ethnographic research in primary schools in London while Gerry Czerniawski, from England, carried out ethnographic research in educational fields in Norway, Germany and England.
The four papers review their research in the light of the potential of ‘making the strange familiar’ for educational ethnography and secondly on how the comparison of ethnographic data from fields in different educational systems sheds new light on teaching and learning, and helps to develop new theoretical perspectives about pedagogy.
Section Two of the book comprises of two expert reviews of the case studies. The first focuses on the benefit of comparative approaches for ethnographic research (Helga Kelle) and the second asks how ethnographic approaches can make an important contribution to increase contextual sensitivity for comparative education (Marilyn Osborn).
This book makes a major contribution to our understanding of making the familiar strange in educational ethnography through an analysis of making the strange familiar.

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