Ethnographic Causality


Peter Abell
Ofer Engel
University of Groningen


This book explores the problem of causal inference when a sufficient number of comparative cases cannot be found, which would permit the application of frequency based models formulated in terms of explanatory causal generalizations. 

Recent developments in causal inference focus mainly on type-causal mechanisms, where one type of event (such as greenhouse gas emissions) causes another type of event (such as climate change). In contrast, this book focuses on singular causation.

Since it is inferred from testimonial evidence, singular causation is of interest in ethnographic case studies, where comparisons between cases and generalizations are not always possible. The book develops the notion of Bayesian and Comparative Narratives, using them to marshal evidence for singular causal connections from ethnographically elicited, indicative, counterfactual, and counterpotential statements.
While preserving the universal concept of causality, the book explores its specific rather than general dimension. By addressing their complementary roles in causal identification and estimation, "quantitative" and "qualitative" approaches find common ground.

With contribution of Henry Wynn

Cover design / Typesetting: LINE UP boek en media bv | Riëtte van Zwol

Publisher: University of Groningen Press
Broerstraat 4 9712 CP Groningen

Production support: LINE UP boek en media bv

The softcover version of this book (ISBN: 9789403429472) can be ordered via Print on demand directly on the site of our partner  Uitgeverij kleine Uil, and through all regular (internet) bookshops.

International shipping is possible via Amazon.

This publication is peer reviewed.


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Author Biographies

Peter Abell

Peter Abell is a British social scientist and an Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics where he has founded and directed the "Interdisciplinary Institute of Management". His interests lie in mathematical sociology, social networks, formal approaches to qualitative analysis (Bayesian narratives) and cooperative organisations .

Ofer Engel, University of Groningen

Ofer Engel is a data scientist and educator at the University of Groningen. His main interest lies at the intersection between causal inference in the social sciences and applied philosophy. He studied networks in organisations, and has worked as an investigator for a number of European funded projects on responsible research and innovation.

Cover of Ethnographic Causality



March 8, 2023



Singular Causality, Ethnographic Causality, Bayesian Narratives, Counterfactuals, Counterpotentials

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