Miranda Jessica Lubbers José Luis Molina

The ethnographic study of personal networks

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The term «personal network» was first coined by anthropologists of the Manchester School to conceptualise an individual’s immediate social environment, which tends to crosscut different communities and social settings. This concept, now a central theme in the interdisciplinary field of social network analysis, is a powerful tool for understanding a great variety of phenomena, such as migration and mobility, health and wellbeing, and social exclusion. Although the field has its roots in anthropology, ethnography has only played a marginal role in personal network research. Nonetheless, ethnography also revolves around social relationships, and it offers unique benefits for studying personal networks. This paper takes stock of ethnography’s contributions to the field and reflects on future research avenues.


  • personal networks
  • ethnography
  • relational approach
  • support mo- bilization
  • networking practices
  • social relationships


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