Economic Geography, Relational Research and Networks

Networks have become popular in the field of economic geography for studying local industry clusters, global value chains and production networks, urban and world city networks, the geography of knowledge, learning and innovation, technological and industrial dynamics, supply chains and trade networks, cooperation and governance, etc. Simultaneously, scholars use network analysis to address current societal and organizational challenges, including political, sustainability and industrial transitions as well as climate change and pandemic disruptions. Recent literature reviews highlight the richness and breadth of this growing research tradition in our field (Uitermark & van Meeteren, 2021; Glückler & Panitz, 2021). Yet, conceptual calls for relational thinking and the methodological advance of social network analysis have developed almost independently of each other. Whereas formal methods of ‘network geometry’ had been used already in the 1960s, relational thinking has evolved only later with its roots in actor-network-theory, cultural geographies of economies, practice theory, social network theory, and relational economic geography. Because of the frequent disconnect between formal analysis of network structure on the one hand and qualitative analysis of the social meaning of relations on the other, scholars have called for a more integrative understanding of relational research. In the light of economic geographers’ growing interest in phenomena as complex as creativity, knowledge, innovation, resilience, governance, institutions as well as industrial and societal transitions this session aims to discuss and cross-fertilize qualitative insights in the meaning with quantitative insights in the structure of social and organizational networks.

It invites theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions which shed light, among a broad range of possible topics, on the following issues: