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Lecture: Prof. Song Chen (Bucknell University): Connecting the Dots: Advancing Chinese Historical Studies through Social Network Analysis

15. Jul 2024 @ 18:00 - 20:00

Date: July 15, 2024
Time: 18:00
Place: KWZ 0.607

In recent years, an increasing number of scholars have actively explored how social network analysis (SNA) may advance the understanding of Chinese history and literature. These explorations have underscored the pressing need for methodological reflections and the most appropriate subjects for network analysis. Drawing on my research in the areas of prosopography and local religion, this talk discusses the potentials and pitfalls in the application of SNA to historical studies. Using elite marriages in eleventh- and thirteenth-century China as an example, the first part of this talk explores how SNA breaks new ground in prosopographical research, directing attention from the “common background characteristics” of a historical population to the patterned relationships knitting together the members of that population. The second part of this talk addresses the tendency to conflate social networks as a subject of inquiry with social network analysis as a method of data modeling. This confusion often leads to flawed research designs at the onset of a project, skewing data collection and hampering subsequent analyses. It also results in missed opportunities where scholars overlook potential research projects that seem unrelated to SNA but could greatly benefit from its analytical capabilities. As an illustration, insights will be shared from my recent work that employs SNA to unveil patterns in the spatial distribution of temple cults in the Lower Yangzi during the thirteenth century.

Song Chen received his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 2011 and is currently an Associate Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Studies at Bucknell University, USA. His research focuses on Chinese social and cultural history between the eighth and the eighteenth century. For many years his work has focused on the migration and marriage patterns of China’s ruling elite in these centuries. Recently he is expanding the scope of his study to popular religion. He uses digital methods extensively in his teaching and scholarship. He is the inaugural project manager of the China Biographical Database project (CBDB), and has served on the project’s Steering and Executive Committees since 2011. His research combines prosopography, network analysis, and historical GIS. In 2021 and 2022, he co-edited, with Henrike Rudolph and Zhao Wei, two special journal issues that feature cutting-edge digital scholarship in Chinese studies. He has given research talks and taught digital humanities workshops at Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, National Taiwan University, Peking University, Tsinghua University (Beijing), Shanghai Normal University, National University of Singapore, among others.


15. Jul 2024
18:00 - 20:00
Event Category:


KWZ 0.607
University of Göttingen, Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14
Göttingen, Lower Saxony 37073 Germany
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