Jan 2015

"Culturally Meaningful Networks: On the Transition from Military to Civilian Life" (under review )

This work stems from my PhD research and relates to my interest in the interplay between social structure and culture. The aim of my dissertation was to show that it is both possible and useful to go beyond a merely verbal reconciliation of social network analysis and culture in order to understand the experience of social reality. For this purpose, I focused on the experience of leaving the military and followed a sample of individuals moving through the transition from military to civilian life in the contemporary UK. In more than 130 interviews, I combined quantitative and qualitative approaches to re-embed network analysis within leavers' experiences. This involved the integration of a new interview technique that allowed me to elicit the structures of their personal networks, as well as to grasp the symbolic distinctions by which they understand their relationships and the social practices through which they are enacted. My dissertation helps resolve the longstanding puzzle regarding why some do well and others do badly in their military-civilian transitions. In particular, it shows that a specific structural network embedding explains whether military leavers maintain durable cultural frames that can create enormous challenges for them. Attention to the temporal unfolding of network structure and social meaning is essential to bringing out this finding.