In his lecture on “Triangulating Area Studies, Not Methods: The Role of Cross-Regional Contextualized Comparison," Rudra Sil will show the potential of cross-regional contextualized comparison (CRCC) as a form of cross-area small-N research that is neither solely driven by the quasi-experimental logic of Mll's methods, nor engaging only with cases limited to the area where one has primary expertise.
CRCC is motivated by theoretical questions, but aspires to no more than "middle-range" theory while still depending on the sensibilities of an area specialist who has deep knowledge of at least one of the cases and is prepared to engage specialists in other areas in delving into case-specific complexities. This strategy neither overcomes methodological tradeoffs, nor produces elegant, parsimonious models. It does, however, offer a middle ground between the complexities of case-specific process tracing, and patterns that emerge from comparing the emergent processes across comparable cases that speak to a particular problem. CRCC thus involves a distinctive packaging of skills that can benefit comparative area studies and comparative politics.
Especially useful is CRCC's dialogical function, expediting the diffusion of different packets of theoretical and empirical ideas both “horizontally” (across communities of area specialists) and “vertically” (between these communities and those focused on general problems, models and theories that are of relevance to comparative politics writ large). Sil argues that these benefits of CRCC make it a more fruitful avenue for pracically useful middle-range theories than the mechanical (or forced) multi-methodism.