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Chapter

Focus Groups  

Trends, Issues, and Debates

Andrew Parker and Jonathan Tritter

This chapter looks at focus groups, which grew out of both a therapeutic and marketing tradition and have been utilized by social scientists for many years. Their format constitutes a type of interview technique where six to twelve people are brought together and encouraged to discuss specific topics for 60–90 minutes in order that underlying issues might be explored. Focus groups are often used to investigate areas about which relatively little is known, and they are premised on face-to-face interactions between participants rather than direct responses to questions. More recently they have been adapted to online settings, particularly for hard-to-reach populations. Focus groups are valuable because they capture and harness group interaction to prompt fuller and deeper discussion and the triggering of new ideas. But in order for these dynamics to develop, it is vital that people’s stories are not already well known to each other.

Chapter

Social Network Analysis  

The Significance of Relations

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan

This chapter studies Social Network Analysis (SNA), which is a methods toolbox for analysing the patterning of social ties and explaining how and why those patterns emerge and what consequences they have for social actors. Social networks are ubiquitous in the social world, either unfolding in face-to-face interactions or digitally. In recent decades, SNA has grown in popularity, appealing broadly to students interested in complex social structures. The recent availability of data based on digital traces of social relations (e.g. emails or social media profiles) has further prompted students to study these network structures. Analysing how actors are connected through other actors via paths may indicate how e.g. information or resources flow through the network via these ties.

Chapter

James R. Scarritt and Jóhanna K Birnir

This chapter explores the relationship between ethnopolitics and nationalism, and more specifically how ethnic identity contributes to war and the amelioration of ethnic conflicts. It first considers the construction and politicization of ethnic identities — in other words, the construction of ethnic and ethnopolitical identities — before discussing the construction of a variety of nationalist identities in the developing world. It then examines the conflictual, competitive, and cooperative interactions of groups based on nationalist identities with one another and with states, along with states’ efforts to mould these interactions in ways that enhance the legitimacy of state-based nations and their support from various groups. The chapter shows that cooperative interactions tend to promote nation-building through multi-ethnic/multicultural nationalism.

Chapter

Christine Agius

This chapter examines the impact of social constructivism on Security Studies as well as its critique of the assumed orthodoxy of rationalist approaches to security and the international system. In particular, it considers the manner that social constructivists address the question of how security and security threats are ‘socially constructed’. The chapter first provides an overview of definitions and key concepts relating to constructivism, such as its emphasis on the importance of ideas, identity, and interaction, along with its alternative approach to thinking about security. It then explores Alexander Wendt’s three cultures of anarchy and compares conventional constructivism with critical constructivism. Finally, it analyses rationalist and poststructuralist critiques of constructivism.

Chapter

Christine Agius

This chapter examines the impact of social constructivism on Security Studies, and how it calls into question the assumed orthodoxy of rationalist approaches to security and the international system by asking how security and security threats are ‘socially constructed’. It focuses on the importance of social relations and why identity, norms, and culture matter. Whereas rationalist approaches focus on material forces to understand and theorize security, social constructivism argues that ideational as well as material factors construct the world around us and the meanings we give to it. Therefore, its significance for Security Studies is crucial in terms not only of conceptualizing security but of providing alternative readings of security. However, constructivism is not a uniform approach. As this chapter demonstrates, it is broadly divided into two camps, which differ on questions of methodology and particular aspects of how knowledge and identity are interrogated. Throughout this chapter case studies of constructivist approaches to security questions will be discussed, and the chapter concludes with a consideration of critiques of constructivism.

Chapter

Stefan Malthaner, Donatella della Porta, and Lorenzo Bosi

This chapter examines the concept of political violence. Political violence is analysed through the process of radicalization, escalation, transformation, and disengagement resulting from interactions between multiple actors. The chapter explains how processual approaches offer a new way of trying to understand dynamic and continuously changing phenomena. Using processual approaches means taking on a critique of political violence explanations as an effect of socio-economic structural conditions, individual predispositions, or ideologies. The chapter also looks at the social movement theory, political opportunity structure approaches, and resource mobilization theory as alternative ways to study political violence. Appreciating continuity, interaction, context, and contingency are vital in understanding political violence.

Chapter

This chapter examines five main approaches in comparative politics that represent important contributions: old and new institutional analysis, interest approach, ideas approach, individual approach, and the influence of the international environment. The role of ‘interaction’ is also explored. After explaining the use of theory in comparative political analysis, the chapter considers structural functionalism, systems theory, Marxism, corporatism, institutionalism, governance, and comparative political economy. It also discusses behavioural and rational choice approaches, how political culture helps to understand political behaviour in different countries, self-interest in politics, and the implications of globalization for comparative politics. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance of looking at political processes and of defining what the ‘dependent variables’ are.