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Talking about Difference: Cross-Cultural Comparison and Prejudice in Anthropology and Beyond

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jats:pIn recent years, the question of “difference” has become a central feature of public debate and social concern, especially in the context of transnational migration. The underlying question that we attempt to answer in this article is: how can we talk about difference without reinforcing prejudice? Starting from the observation that perceptions and representations of difference have an impact on the way that individuals and groups interact with each other in increasingly diverse urban environments, we argue that a systemic approach to the analysis of intercultural situations gives us a unique window into emerging discourses and evolving norms about difference. After a brief historical overview of debates surrounding cross-cultural comparison in anthropology, we consider how various fields outside of anthropology have drawn inspiration from anthropology in order to gain a deeper understanding of intercultural dynamics in various professional settings. This article also examines several anthropological concepts that have been used as tools to theorize cross-cultural comparison, and how participants in a new research methodology use the systemic notion of “cultural variables” to resolve the basic paradox underlying pluralist philosophy and practice.</jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank all the organizations and individuals who participated in the Intercultural Situations Workshops. We would also like to thank our colleagues and students from the Laboratoire de recherches sur les relations interculturelles (LABRRI) who participated in discussions concerning the evolution of this project, especially Maude Arsenault and Sylvie Genest who gave us very helpful comments on a preliminary draft of the article.

Publication status: Published


47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4702 Cultural Studies, 4401 Anthropology, 44 Human Society

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Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2019-1148)