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Social networks and the study of relations: networks as method, metaphor and form

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Networks have recently become fashionable in social analysis but most of the new network approaches have paid scant attention to the long history of reflections upon the potential of networks as an analytical device in the social sciences. In this paper we chart the developments in networking thinking in two disciplinary areas – social network analysis and social anthropology – in order to highlight the enduring difficulties and problems with network thinking as well as its potential. The first half of the paper explores the uses of network approaches over the past fifty years, situating theoretical and methodological questions in their broader disciplinary contexts. The authors then show how emerging issues from both bodies of work offer the promise of new kinds of networking thinking.
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Keywords: interdisciplinarity; methodology; networks; social anthropology; social change; social network analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2006

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