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Background

Trained at the University of Minnesota with
Pertti (Bert) Pelto, E. Adamson Hoebel and James Gibbs, in graduate work on the CIC: Travelling Scholar Program at Michigan with Frank Harary, Clyde Coombs, Marshall Sahlins and Eric Wolf, and at Columbia with Paul Lazarsfeld, Robert Murphy and Marvin Harris, I recently traced some of the theoretical emphases in my work, along the lines of the Manchester school, in a description of network realism, a term coined by Harrison White in the 2007 revision of his 1992 book, Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action.

I did field research with Ojibwa Indians, farmers and fishermen in Veracruz, Mexico, and a dissertation on cooperative networks and decision-making among North American Indians. After joining G. P. Murdock at the University of Pittsburgh (1967) in teaching and building the cross-cultural enterprise, I married and joined Dr. Lilyan Brudner in national level field work on the Irish language and policy analysis for the Republic of Ireland. By 1970, I had taken the network realism approach of my Ph.D. dissertation into more systematic cross-cultural analyses of social networks. Soon after, Lilyan and I joined forces with Hugo Nutini to study social networks and cognition in villages and factories of Tlaxcala, Mexico. Recently, after receiving the Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished Senior Scientist Research Award for 1990-1992, we returned to the Austrian farming communities of Lilyan's PhD research to study social networks, class and property systems. From 1990 until his unfortunate death in 1999, I worked collaboratively with Tom Schweizer and colleagues in Germany and in France, where I was Directeur d'Etudes at Maison des Science de l'Homme; Bourse d'Haute Niveau of the Ministry of Research at LASMAS, CNRS; and served for several years as Co-Responsable Scientifique, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

In France, starting in 1991, Paul Jorion and I developed a new approach to the analysis of kinship analysis, and Michael Houseman and I set up a systematic research program to collect and analysis kinship organization in as many societies as we could find that offered data on actual genealogical connections in whole communities. That work led to some amazing discoveries, including that of structural endogamy, followed closed by definition and measurement of structural cohesion in networks generally. My 1999-2002 NSF grant developed and tested a number of predictive consequences of structural cohesion, leading to a key paper with Frank Harary, the prize winning paper with James Moody published in 2003, and the prize winning application to Walter ("Woody") Powell's biotech industry timeseries data (2005). In 2005, the French NSF (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) awarded a grant to my European research group for 'Informatic Treatment of Kinship Phenomena: An Integrated Approach in Anthropology and History' funded in 2005. We are developing and extensive database and further informatics for analysis of societies as complex systems. An early study in this series is Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems: Process Models of a Turkish Nomad Clan, 2005, with Ulla C. Johansen (University of Cologne).

Much of my work is influenced initially by the Manchester school of anthropology (given also the influence on Gluckman of my mentor E. A. Hoebel, and Gluckman's visits with him at the University of Minnesota to which we were occationally privileged). I had visited with John Barnes at Cambridge while doing fieldwork in Ireland in 1972-73, and from my first years at UCI I remained in close touch with J. Clyde Mitchell. My later collaborations included those with Elizabeth Colson and Thayer Scudder, and with T. Scarlett Epstein, whence I came to know well her husband Bill, My extended work in Europe (1972-1974), Germany (from 1989), France (from 1990), Austria (from 1991), and Italy (from 2000), and occasional visits to England led to many collaborations with Social Anthropologists in Europe, which remains my principal professional identity, in addition to the fields of mathematical sociology, network analysis and theory, and complexity as an interdisciplinary research field. These latter approaches, present in my work even from graduate days, and once matured, have given me a very different approach to the network approaches associated with the Manchester school. My critique of the influential Manchester network approaches of the 1960s is found in the introductory chapter of the book with Johansen.

While I wrote the first broad theoretical synthesis in the interdisciplinary field of Mathematical Anthropology for the 1974 Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology, the difference equation simulation model reviewed and written in those years for the Natchez Paradox, another early excursis into network realism, altered the field of Mississippian studies and eliminated this topic in subsequent anthropology textbooks but never made an impression on citations. My "Controlled Simulation of Marriage Systems" (1999) in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation made a much bigger impact as it established the possibility of a whole class of validated models of marriage systems, work that continues today in the French ANR project. The most powerful of the network simulations that have resulted from my studies, however, is that with a physicist, statistician, computer scientist, and complex system economist. That 2005 article competes technically with the well known small-world and scale-free network models.

I serve or served on the editorial boards of Social Science Computing Review, Michigan Press's Linking Levels of Analysis series, and the World Cultures and Structure and Dynamics electronic journals that I founded in 1985 and 2005, respectively. I also edit the InterSciences MediaWiki for the UC and other Complexity groups.

Since 2000 I have participated with Santa Fe Institute researchers, and serve since 2004 on their External Research Faculty.


Douglas R. White Home Page: doug.html
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times since Aug '98.