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Relational approaches to social network analysis

John Boy, Justus Uitermark (University of Amsterdam)

This session invite submissions that showcase, and reflect on, the application of relational theorizing in social network analysis (SNA). Scholars like Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu critiqued "substantialist" thinking in the social sciences and proposed relational approaches as an alternative. Unlike substantialism, which traces social phenomena back to specific variables or individuals, relational approaches conceive of the world as constituted through dynamic, unfolding relations. Social networks analysis seems a natural methodological complement, but on closer inspection, the fit between SNA and relational approaches is less smooth. Bourdieu considered social interactions, and by implication social networks, as merely epiphenomal and argued that sociologists need to uncover more fundamental structures. Mustafa Emirbayer's critique of substantialism - that it presumes that entities or individuals pre-exist interactions - equally applies to much of SNA. Thus, a relational approach does not automatically justify SNA, but also forces us to reflect on its presuppositions and limitations. How can we incorporate notions of reflexivity into network analysis? How can we take into account cultural processes or political structures that are not easily captured by network metrics? Submissions may engage not only with Elias, Bourdieu or Emirbayer, but also a wide range of relational theorists including Dorothy Smith, Bruno Latour, Margaret Archer, and Ervin Goffman.

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Deadline: February 1, 2018 (23.59 hrs. CET time)

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