Much has been said about the natures and relationships between close and distant reading, a dialogue that is sure to continue. In my inbox this morning came a note from Willard McCarthy which reminded readers of The Humanist that dialectic is one way to think about the relationship and that others have struggled to keep the two things, local and global, in focus simultaneously. McCarthy turned to Clifford Geertz’ description of ethnography as
a continuous dialectical tacking between the most local of local detail and the most global of global structure in such a way as to bring them into simultaneous view…. Hopping back and forth between the whole conceived through the parts that actualize it and the parts conceived through the whole that motivates them, we seek to turn them, by a sort of intellectual perpetual motion, into explications of one another.
–Clifford Geert, “‘From the Native’s Point of View’: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding”, Local Knowledge, 69.