Relational sociology is a new field of research that opens up a middle way between top-down and bottom-up theoretical approaches (or holism and individualism respectively) by concentrating on the lived relations (interactions or transactions) between social actors and observing how these relations build up and change over time, thus shedding light on the dynamic and processual aspects of social life. Following Mustafa Emirbayer, we can thus conceive relational sociology in broad terms as a rejection of substantialism as the idea that social reality is made out of things rather than processes. Albeit very promising, the project of relational sociology raises new challenges as well, notably when it comes to research methods. How to operationalize a relational approach? What kind of data is most appropriate when examining social processes so as to unambiguously unpack their processual character? Does relational sociology call for a new method for collecting data What could be a paradigmatic example of relational analysis? Presentations can focus on relational methodologies as a general problem or share research strategies deployed in the spirit of relational sociology.
Organizers: Jean-Sebastien Guy, Dalhousie University, Peeter Selg, Tallinn University