Lay theories in comparative research

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The paper addresses the theoretical concept and methodological usefulness of 'lay theories' for conducting comparative research. 'Lay knowledge' is a well-researched concept particularly in medicine and health (e.g. Williams & Popay 2006), even if often regarded as an 'obstacle' that needs to be overcome in order to spread 'proper' scientific, medical knowledge. Critical studies within medicine have pointed to the disadvantages of neglecting lay knowledges, and the negative consequences from the growing distance between modern medicine and the lay populace (Williams & Calnan 1996). Scholars within this strand of research maintain that the exclusive focus on 'experts' ignores the social nature of humans and human creativity (Popay et al. 1998). Not only regarding health, but also many other processes and knowledge bodies in the social world, the lay populace harbors their own theories of 'how things work'. From a heuristic point of view, lay people with translocal experiences, i.e. people who are in a position to compare, have the undeniable advantage of being able to test their theories in different settings. However, there is a lack of research that systematically assesses and compares translocal lay comparisons. The paper will explore the productivity of this approach by drawing on two empirical examples: Swedish youth's comparative experiences with their Chinese peers' use of information and communication technologies; and Chinese parents' comparative experiences with different systems of schooling (China, Sweden, Germany).


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences


  • lay comparison, lay theory, comparative education
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch
Event9th Annual ADI Conference: Asia in Circulations - Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 2017 Jun 262017 Jun 28


Conference9th Annual ADI Conference
Internet address

Related projects

Marina Svensson, Barbara Schulte, Annika Pissin, Tommy Shih & Stefan Brehm

Swedish Research Council


Project: Research

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