Contemporary Comparative Anthropology: The Why We Post Project

Daniel Miller, Elisabetta Costa, Laura Haapio-Kirk, Nell Haynes, Jolynna Sinanan, Tom McDonald, Razvan Nicolescu, Juliano Spyer, Shriram Venkatraman, Xinyuan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper confronts the disparity between a tradition that has defined anthropology as a comparative discipline and the practices which increasingly embrace cultural relativism and the uniqueness of each fieldsite. It suggests that it is possible to resolve this dilemma, through creating a vertical structure that complements the horizontal task of comparison across fieldsites. This vertical structure is composed of different methods of dissemination which make explicit a series of steps from a baseline of popular dissemination which stresses the uniqueness of individuals, through books and journal articles with increasing degrees of generalisation and comparison. Following this structure leads us up through analysis to the creation and employment of theory. This allows us to make comparisons and generalisations without sacrificing our assertion of specificity and uniqueness. We illustrate this argument though a recent nine-field site comparison of the use and consequences of social media in a project called ‘Why We Post.’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-300
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Nov 2017


  • comparative anthropology
  • theory
  • social media
  • dissemination
  • digital anthropology


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