Jan A. Fuhse
Following several strands of sociological theory (most importantly: relational sociology around Harrison White), I regard social structures as composed of social networks which are interwoven with meaning. To be more precise, networks exist as relational expectations emerging, stabilizing, and changing over the course of communicative events. Network research therefore has to focus on both the symbolic and the communicative-dynamic side of social networks.
Currently, I am working on methods to study this formation and change of networks in communication. For this, I combine relational sociology with Niklas Luhmann's theory of communication and various discourse analytical approaches, including conversation analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, and positioning theory. The idea is to study relational aspects of communication with qualitative-interpretive and quantitative-explanatory methods. At the moment, I am exploring this by looking at political debates.
Previously, I focussed on the role of social networks in the constitution and reproduction of social inequality. In my doctorate, I applied relational sociology to the integration of Italian migrants in Germany. The main idea was that ethnicity and the ethnic composition of the migrants' personal networks interact. This proved to be true, but only for more practical aspects of ethnicity. Similarly, I showed that acculturation primarily depends on the ethnic composition of migrants' personal networks, rather than on their socio-economic status.
Later conceptual work discussed the interplay of categories and network structure, and the analysis of structural inequality in survey research.
Other fields of my work, past and current, include:
- the sociology of the political system
- socio-cultural networks fostered by mass-mediated communication
- social aspects of contemporary science fiction
For a more detailed look at my work, please refer to my publications.