Call for Abstracts to a Special Note Section: “The German-Language Tradition: Approaches to Social Networks”

Sunbelt 2013, Hamburg

Call for Abstracts to a Special Note Section: “The German-Language Tradition: Approaches to Social Networks”

Session of the Section “Sociological Network Research” in the German Sociological Association (GSA)

The current techniques, methods, and theories that make up the body of Social Network Analysis hark back to developments that emanated to a large extent from North America. Its roots, however, can be found to a large part in the German-language tradition of sociology. Georg Simmel is the most prominent figure in this respect. By questioning the status of the individual as the unit of analysis and conceiving sociology as the study of relationships and their diverse forms, Simmel adumbrated many of the cornerstones of today’s network research.

But Simmel was not the only one who imagined a way of doing sociology that starts from relations and networks (or forms) of relations. One of the first who thought in relational categories was Karl Marx. Much later Leopold von Wiese erected his whole system of general sociology on the notions of relation and process. Karl Mannheim’s studies on the sociology of knowledge discussed the impact of social structure on forms of thinking and knowing. Theodor Litt and Alfred Schütz made fundamental contributions to relational lines of thought with their ideas on the reciprocity of perspectives. Helmuth Plessner, Norbert Elias and of course Niklas Luhmann should be added. Their ideas on relational boundaries, configurations, and patterns of related expectations are certainly part of the German-language tradition of relational sociology.

In addition to these theoretical approaches one should take into account that this tradition also comprises scholars who emigrated to the US, such as Jakob Moreno and Paul Lazarsfeld. Both of them are well-known for their substantial empirical developments. Digging a little bit deeper yet reveals that the empirical roots even date back to the 19th century. For example, in a recently rediscovered article from 1900 matrix algebra is used to trace a German schoolboy’s friends network.

All these works (many others could be added) are very instructive when viewed in the light of modern network research. They broaden the foundations for any current or forthcoming approaches that aim at a theory of social networks and the development of consequent methods. This might trigger a reconsideration of nagging questions and open issues concerning the role of meaning and stories in networks, the multiplexity of ties, the dynamics of networks, the formation of identities, and the setting, crossing, or erasing of boundaries.

In this special note section we would like to concentrate these diverse and dispersed works of the German-language tradition by using networks as a common focus. Many of the named scholars and theories have been discussed extensively in different fields. But they have never been pooled or combined under the rubric of network research so far.

Therefore we invite abstracts for 20 minute oral presentations that address scholars of this tradition and that work out how the pertinent theoretical ideas and notions reset, shift, or reframe critical issues of network research. The discussion of the contributions should revolve around possible combinations and benefits for network theory and analysis.

Submission will be closing on December 31. Abstracts up to a maximum of 250 words should be submitted to the Sunbelt abstract server:

When submitting your abstract, please select “German-Language Tradition” as session title in the drop down box on the submission site.

Session Organizers:
Christian Stegbauer, Goethe University Frankfurt
Roger Häußling, RWTH Aachen University
Athanasios Karafillidis, RWTH Aachen University (all Germany)