The epistemology of particulars: human geography, case studies and "context"
Since the mid-1980s, so-called 'case study' research has become ever more prominent in the journal articles and monographs produced by human geographers. A case study usually involves investigating one or more phenomena in some depth in one place, region or country. What makes it an actual or potential 'case' is that the phenomena under investigation (e.g. workfare policies, flexible manufacturing technologies, postmodern architecture) can be found in other places, regions or countries: the case may thus be unique but is not singular.1 In certain fields of human geography, particular cases have been the focus of so much research they've become iconic (think of Manchester, my own city, as well as Los Angeles and Vancouver). Focussing on these and other cases has become a means of negotiating two opposing views of the world that have a pedigree in the discipline.