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Exchange Forum Interpretative Methods in Political Science

Based on discussions within and across the panels of Section 14: Concepts, Practices, Actions: Theories, Methodologies and Techniques of analysing Politics beyond the Nation State at the 2020 Virtual General Conference we started an exchange on interpretative methods in political science:

In the last two decades, political science and its subdisciplines have experienced a growing interest into theories, methodologies and research techniques that are inspired by (micro)sociological or ethnographic approaches, that are backed by ontological and methodological premises of social constructivism, and that emphasise notions of positionality and reflexivity. In many ways, these approaches link to established research traditions in other fields such as anthropology and sociology, and specific subdisciplines such as rhetorical studies, conceptual and intellectual history, practice theory, or discourse analysis. Sharing an emphasis on studying actorness, political and linguistic action, or micro-politics, most of them concentrate on the (re)production of meaning and power relations via different processes, actions or practices and their analysis. The usage of these approaches in the wider community of political science, however, has differed across the cultures of the respective subdisciplines. There also remains a notable silence in methodological exchange between scholars who self-identify as belonging to different (sub)communities, such as practice theory, area studies, or interpretive political science, even though they draw on and operationalize similar methodological strategies and vocabularies.

Against this backdrop, this forum brings together researchers from all political science subdisciplines that concentrate on the study of concepts, practices and actions, in order to help establish a landscape of these approaches and their usage, to highlight upcoming challenges, and to build a future research agenda. Beyond opening channels of conversations as opportunities of serendipitous learning and collegial engagement, there is also a pragmatic consideration behind this forum: by starting to speak to each other, we can avoid re-inventing the methodological wheel and begin to produce research, arguments and analytical vocabularies that speak to members of the political science community beyond those we consistently engage with. Thus, the aim of the forum is explicitly to transcend sub-disciplinary boundaries and connect different epistemic communities.

Aims are to:

  • Discuss newer methodological developments in analysing politics both within and beyond the nation state inspired by sociological and anthropological methods
  • Discuss their strengths and particularities as well as their limitations and need for further development
  • Develop innovative methodologies fit to analyse concepts and conceptual controversies, practices and actions that may adapt to unforeseen methodological and practical challenges to research work (such as the covid-19 pandemic)
  • Discover new methodological and theoretical pathways, ask new research questions in emerging areas of research, and map out challenges facing techniques and designs
  • Consider the ethics of methodologies and research techniques inspired by (micro)sociological or ethnographic approaches in the study of politics
  • Identify where political science research may both learn from and be different from research conducted in neighbouring disciplines (esp. anthropology and sociology)
  • Investigate claims that methodological foci on micro-dynamics de-politicises the study of politics
  • Begin to consider how we can link questions of research methodology to how teach political science
  • Organise events in the framework of the ECPR and beyond (panels, sections, workshops, research sessions, conferences) and eventually publish the results

For more information please contact

Claudia Wiesner (

Kristin Anabel Eggeling (