A Comparative Method
Before developing a method that can be used for the cross-cultural and diachronic comparison of houses, I first need to contextualize the approach I use here within comparative studies in anthropology and related disciplines. The central methodology of comparative studies in anthropology is cross-cultural analysis, which has developed a powerful means for the evaluation of theoretically derived hypotheses through statistical tests of association among variables coded from discrete cultural units (e.g., Pasternak, Ember, and Ember 1976, discussed below). In contrast, the subject matter of this book is ethnographically described peasant households, houses, and communities, many of which display shared cultural features embodied in a small number of major civilizational patterns (e.g., Chinese, Islamic, Mesoamerican). Given the resulting potential for cultural similarity among some of my cases, there is less “sampling independence” in my data than is desired in traditional cross-cultural research (e.g., Naroll 1970). I am thus faced with an unusual set of methodological constraints that require me to depart in some ways from the conventional cross-cultural method. Most of what follows can be regarded as being comparative in orientation, rather than cross-cultural, strictly speaking, although I do make qualified use of some elements of traditional cross-cultural analysis.
KeywordsMaize Europe Cage Syria Assure
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