SPSA Conference 2021 LIVE ONLINE* *Registered participants will also have access to all workshop recordings until March 15th 2021
Concepts are foundational to the social-science enterprise. This two-day workshop introduces you to new ways to think about and work with them derived from interpretivist methodology. In contrast to the more widely-known positivist approach of concept “formation” or “reconstruction” (the formulation of a technical, neutral vocabulary for measuring, comparing, and generalizing), what you will learn in this workshop is an approach that I call “elucidation.” Elucidation includes both an investigation into the language of daily life and a reflexive examination of social-science technical language. It is intended to illuminate both the worldviews of the people that social scientists wish to understand and the ways in which social scientists’ embeddedness in particular languages, historical eras, and power structures shapes the concepts with which they do their work.
The main goals of the workshop are threefold:
For you to understand the difference between reconstructing and elucidating concepts and to see what is at stake in choosing to do one or the other.
For you to learn one basic elucidative strategy derived from ordinary language philosophy and how to assess the goodness of social-science concepts by recognizing problems of one-sideness, universalism, and objectivism.
For you to gain practice elucidating concepts by doing in-class exercises with concepts that you yourself have chosen.
You will need to identify one or two concepts of interest to you. It would be helpful if you could do that in advance of the workshop.
Workshop Outline & Suggested Readings
Wednesday, January 6
Session 1 - Afternoon Session
3:30pm - 4:50pm
Methodologies and concepts
In this introductory part of the workshop, you will learn what it means to adopt a positivist or interpretivist methodology and their respective approaches to concepts.
Session 2 - Evening Session
5:00pm - 6:30pm
Introduction to interpretivist elucidation
Operating within an interpretivist framework, you will learn to recognize problems of one-sideness, universalism, and objectivism in reconstructed concepts. You will also be introduced to the basic aims of concept elucidation.
Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. 2012. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes (New York: Routledge): 4-7.
Sartori, Giovanni. 1970. “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics.” American Political Science Review 64,4: 1033-46.
_____.2009. “An Illustration.” In Concepts and Method in Social Science: The Tradition of Giovanni Sartori edited by David Collier and John Gerring. New York: Routledge; 72-74.
Collier, David, and James E. Mahon, Jr. 1993. “Conceptual ‘Stretching’ Revisited: Adapting Categories in Comparative Analysis.” American Political Science Review 87,4: 845-55.
Bevir, Mark, and Asaf Kedar. 2008. “Concept Formation in Political Science: An Anti-Naturalist Critique of Qualitative Methodology.” Perspectives on Politics 6,3: 503-17.
Thursday, January 7
Session 3 - Afternoon Session
3:30pm - 4:50pm
The elucidative strategy of grounding (using the tools of ordinary language interviewing) Ordinary language interviewing is a tool for uncovering the meaning of words in everyday talk. By studying the meaning of words (in English or other languages), the promise is to gain insight into the various social realities these words name, evoke, or realize. In this session, we will cover some basic questions about ordinary language interviewing: what it is and what can be discovered through it.
Session 4 - Evening Session
5:00pm - 6:30pm
Practice designing and conducting an ordinary language interview In this session, you will learn how to conduct an ordinary language interview and gain practice doing one.
Schaffer, Frederic Charles. 2014. “Thin Descriptions: The Limits of Survey Research on the Meaning of Democracy.” Polity 46,3: 303-30.
Don't miss out, register early to take advantage of reduced early-bird rates:
Originally set to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, all SPSA/WSSR workshops will now take place LIVE online* from January 6th to the 9th.
Registration for the WSSR workshops is now open. Register early to take advantage of reduced conference rates. If you have already completed your registration for the SPSA meeting, but would like to add a WSSR workshop, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
*Note: registered participants will also have access to all workshop recordings until March 15th 2021.
Join us between January 6th and January 9th and attend one or more of our workshops: