Symbolic Interactionism and Qualitative Network Research―Theoretical and Method(olog)ical Implications for the Analysis of Social Networks


  • Tom Töpfer Der PARITÄTISCHE Wohlfahrtsverband
  • Laura Behrmann Bergische Universität Wuppertal



qualitative network research, situation, interaction, social relationship, social network, methodical holism, interactionist network research, symbolic interactionism


In network research, qualitative approaches have increasingly become established for the study of social relationships and social networks. What is lacking so far, however, is a specification of a genuinely qualitative perspective on the network as an object of research as well as a consistent research practice in the sense of a methodical holism. In this contribution, we discuss which theoretical and methodological perspectives in line with symbolic interactionism in the tradition of Herbert BLUMER are implied in the qualitative study of social networks. The point of departure of an interactionist understanding of reality are the interpretations of actors and which meanings they create in interaction and via symbols in situations. In accordance with this perspective, we understand social networks at the theoretical level as meaningfully structured, interactively negotiated, and situated processes of ordering. The key thrust of an interactionist-empirical approach to social networks is to extrapolate from situations and their linkages how social networks become visible and exert an effect. With our situation generator, we introduce a way of empirically addressing situations and discuss method(olog)ical consequences for an interpretive and reflexive analysis of social networks.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Tom Töpfer, Der PARITÄTISCHE Wohlfahrtsverband

Tom TÖPFER is advisor for early childhood education and care at der PARITÄTISCHE Wohlfahrtsverband Hamburg e.V. Among the foci of his work and research are childcare, network and support research, transition research, family research, and qualitative social research.

Laura Behrmann, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Laura BEHRMANN is a PostDoc researcher with a focus on qualitative methods at the Institute of Sociology, University of Wuppertal. Among the foci of her work and research are qualitative social research, science studies, social inequality, and education research.



How to Cite

Töpfer, T., & Behrmann, L. (2021). Symbolic Interactionism and Qualitative Network Research―Theoretical and Method(olog)ical Implications for the Analysis of Social Networks. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(1).



Single Contributions