Methods Conference “Relational Spatial Methods”
Space is a central concept for the analysis of both reproduction and change of social phenomena, acknowledging that these processes always involve the refiguration of socio-spatial orders (Löw/Sayman/Schwerer/Wolf 2021). The juxtaposition of territory and place, as modernity’s spatial ‘idée directrice’, has been complemented by spatial figurations such as networks, trajectories, fluid space, amongst others (Löw 2020; Mol/Law 1994). However, there is no consensus on how to analytically scrutinize socio-spatial processes nor which methodologies and methods to apply. This lacuna calls for methodological reflection and development (Baur et al. 2014). The conference will contribute to these methodological discussions by bringing together researchers from different theoretical standpoints applying relational methods in research projects with a spatial dimension in order to discuss their respective potentials. The focal questions of this conference, pertinent in current socio-spatial debate, are:
(1) How can we consider geographical and material dimensions of space in quantitative and mixed methods analyses beyond a mere metaphorical use of notions of social space?
(2) In what way can we go beyond the documentation of the territoriality of space and analytically take into account the spatiality of sociality and social processes?
As organizers of the conference and the summer school “Relational Spatial Methods” (taking place the days before, see event informations here), we are particularly interested in the discussion of the potentials of geometric data analysis and social network analysis in relation to other spatial methods such as GIS, mapping, or cartography. We see GDA and SNA especially well equipped to give exciting impulses to bridge at least three common methodological gaps. First, both GDA and SNA call for the methodological and practical integration of qualitative and quantitative methods. Second, both methodologies bridge disciplinary boundaries due to their anchoring in a diverse variety of social sciences such as sociology, political science, communication studies, social and human geography, as well as gender and migration studies. Thirdly, both perspectives advocate research designs that reflexively interrelate statistical-mathematical procedures, qualitative-interpretative understanding and visual-spatial representations, allowing for mutual irritation, creative insight and more encompassing analyses.
Keynote speakers at the methods conference include Frédéric Lebaron (Université Paris Saclay), Ronald Breiger (University of Arizona), Jennifer Robinson (University College London), and Mike Savage (London School of Economics).
The summer school and conference are organized by Séverine Marguin, Hannah Wolf, and Christian Schmidt-Wellenburg.