Book Chapter: ”Comparative philosophy and comparison” by Ralph Weber

Comparative philosophy is lively and the field is diverse and assembles different, sometimes even contradictory views. In his contribution to the edited volume ”Comparative Methods in Law, Humanities and Social Sciences”, Ralph Weber presents these different views and then proceeds to deal with the current conceptualisation of the logic of comparison, with specific attention for diminishing bias and the adequacy of bases of comparison. He helpfully states that one way of investigating the inner dynamics of a given comparison is to ask a set of questions: Who is performing the comparison? What commonality supports the choice of what has to be compared? What is being compared with what? In what respect(s) does the comparer compare that which they compare? What relation results from comparing what the comparer compares in that particular respect? How does the choice of the pre-comparative tertium restrict the realm of possible tertia comparationis? How does a chosen tertium comparationis qualify the comparanda? And what role does the comparanda play in the result of the comparison? Each of these questions reveals an enormous complexity, and the answers may be subject to criticism or require further clarification and substantiation. Moreover, most if not all of these questions are highly relevant for comparative legal research too. Weber also deals with some specific issues, such as generalisation, one-sidedness, and the identification of similarities and differences.

4 QUESTIONS TO… Matthias Maurer Rueda

I hope that our research project can help shift the way we think about politics in Switzerland.”

Matthias Maurer Rueda is a doctoral candidate at the University of Basel. He is a researcher in the case study on “Citizenship, Migration and Re-Tribalisation” of the “Reversing the Gaze” project.


Can you explain your research area in three sentences?

Mostly, I am interested in the role that emotions – particularly feelings of belonging – play in Swiss politics, especially among conservative voters. We all need to make sense of our affective understanding of the world, and to do so we rely heavily on myths and stories: they provide powerful narratives to make sense of our feelings, and they help to unite the myriad of very personal, individual interpretations of the world under solidified, clearly delineated group identities. On a more meta-level, I look at the relationship between academic and everyday language, and how concepts change as they travel between the two.


What key questions would you like to answer in your case study?

Many people in Switzerland seem to be getting angrier and angrier, and no one really knows why –  and much less what to do about it. I think we struggle to understand recent developments – the renewed surge of populism, the increasing polarization – because we misunderstand the way people do politics on a more fundamental level. In my research, I hope to show that by accounting for the emotional, personal side of politics, some of the puzzles we face in the social sciences turn out to be less perplexing after all.


What is your envisioned outcome of the overall project?

On a more practical level, I hope that our research project can help shift the way we think about politics in Switzerland, and the appeal of populist narratives more broadly. Alternative narratives are needed, but if they do not connect on an emotional level, if they see voters as policy-preference-calculators rather than people, they will inevitably fall short of conviction. I also hope to convey, through my personal research and the work of the entire project, that science can and should be a lot more creative than is commonly understood. Decolonial calls to de-center ‘Western’ research practices shouldn’t only be made on an ethical or political level. Exploring new forms of knowledge-making is a scientific necessity, and we should engage and embrace these developments as opportunities to think about the world in new and enlightening ways.


What are you most looking forward to in this collaboration?

I really enjoy the transdisciplinarity of the project. There is a wide range of interests, experiences and approaches amongst the team, and I do not think I have left a conversation without something new to think about. It makes for a very stimulating environment, and I can’t wait to put all the ideas that have been stewing in my head out there.


“Decolonising Knowledge”: Interview with shalini randeria

The October 2021 edition of Global Challenges from the Graduate Institute of Geneva (IHEID) features Reversing the Gaze fellow, Shalini Randeria, in conversation with IHEID Director of Research and Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Grégoire Mallard. The video interview “Decolonising Knowledge: A Historical Perspective from Socio-Anthropology” appears in the introduction of the recently published research webzine.

Global Challenges is a series of dossiers aimed to communicate the ideas, expertise, perspectives, and discussions generated by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with a larger, non-specialist audience.


Shalini Randeria

”In our own words – African perspectives on knowledge production and science” – lecture by Elísio Macamo

In his lecture, Elísio Macamo, Principle Investigator in the Reversing the Gaze project, discusses the field of African Studies as the reflection of how one comes to the knowledge of Africa and the ability to talk truthfully about the African continent.

The online lecture series “In our own words – African perspectives on knowledge production and science” was developed in the framework of the Pilot African Postgraduate Academy and is as a cooperation of Prof Dr Elísio Macamo, Prof Dr Mamadou Diawara and L.I.S.A.Science Portal of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. 


> See the lecture on the L.I.S.A Website

Interview with Elísio Macamo and Ralph Weber on the project “Reversing the Gaze”

Prof. Ralph Weber (top left), Prof. Elísio Macamo (bottom row) and Anita Soltermann (top right) during the interview.

The Grants Office of the University of Basel interviewed two of our principal investigators, Elísio Macamo and Ralph Weber, about the project ”Reversing the Gaze”, interdisciplinarity, trends in research funding, and the Covid-19 crisis.


Read the interview on the Grants Office’s website

Elísio Macamo

Ralph Weber

4 QUESTIONS TO… Elísio Macamo

”I am committed to the old-fashioned view that there is only one science.”

Elísio Macamo is a Professor of Sociology and African Studies at the University of Basel. He is one of the Principal Investigators in the Reversing the Gaze“ project, and leads the case study on “Strangers in our midst”.


Can you explain your research area in three sentences?

Firstly, and most importantly, I am concerned with the knowledge that we produce about Africa, i.e. I am interested in the methodologies used to bring it about and worried about the quality of that knowledge. Secondly, I am interested in how we, as academics, can make knowledge about Africa relevant to the various disciplines. Thirdly, I am committed to the idea of science, and, for this reason, I attempt to contribute to it by working on how best to produce knowledge.


What key questions would you like to answer in your case study?

What I am aiming to show is that there are no boundaries to knowledge. I am interested in using questions raised in connection with Africa to shed light on Switzerland’s fundamental issues. If we manage to do that, we will essentially reveal that science’s boundaries do not lie where we tend to think they do.


What is your envisioned outcome of the overall project?

This project’s overall goal is to engage in broader discussions about topics such as post-colonialism, decoloniality and epistemological hegemony. These have been going on for 30 or 40 years. They are important debates. They take issue with the central place that certain regions occupy in knowledge production and the assumption that this is highly problematic. There is the suggestion that there is a non-European science, and I’m not happy with that. I am committed to the old-fashioned view that there is only one science, and if we can meet our stated research goals, we would make a significant contribution to this broader debate. We will demonstrate that there is only one science, and that is what we should focus on.


What are you most looking forward to in this collaboration?

I am thrilled about the whole project and its originality. I am also very excited about the two doctoral students, Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba and Matthias Maurer Rueda. I am looking forward to seeing how they will overcome the challenge of doing African Studies research in Switzerland.

Overall, it is stimulating to work with the whole project team. It is brilliant. I highly respect the work of my colleagues and love what they have done so far. I can learn so much from them, and it is exciting to have the opportunity to work so closely with them. Lastly, I’m excited about the resonance of our project, if we do our work well, there will be responses, and if we do our work exceptionally well, these responses will be extreme. We might have to brace up some rough times as the debates we engage with address controversial topics.