Tracing Clues: A Historical Case Study of Messy Relationships Between Philanthropy and the Danish Welfare State

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    The past is all messiness and blurred relations. However, we tend to sort the messiness out through rigorous analytical studies leaving the messiness behind. Carlo Ginzburgs´ article Clues. Roots of an Evidential Paradigm from 1986 invigorates methodological elements of (historical) research, which in combination with an approach inspired by the sociology of translation (Latour, Law & Callon) can take messiness as a starting point. Ginzburgs´ article emphasises three central methodological elements; first, it pleas for a semiotic reading of signs. The dictum states that the devil is in the details, thus we must carefully look for even the smallest and insignificant signs to understand the messiness and blurredness of each phenomenon. Second, it stresses that the context is always situational and thus related to the specific and concrete phenomenon under study. Hence, reading signs becomes an enterprise of understanding signs and building their context. Accordingly, the micro-level cannot be separated from the macro-level and vice-versa. Third, it emphasises abduction as the strongest analytical strategy to uncover yet unknown meanings, relations and objects. The limitations and productiveness of these three central methodological elements will be further elaborated and discussed through a historical case study that traces how networks of philanthropic concepts and practices influenced the Danish welfare state in the period from the Danish constitution of 1849 until today. The overall aim of this paper is through an empirical analysis to show how a combination of elements from Ginzburg´s clues article, a sociology of translation and conceptual history contribute to the study of messiness.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2016
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventISCH Conference 2016 - Trieste, Italy
    Duration: 18 Jul 201621 Jul 2016


    ConferenceISCH Conference 2016
    Internet address

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