The term of ‘network‘ has become very popular in the fields of sociology, economics, politics, and anthropology as well as history, but its meaning varies slightly in each field. In the field of Middle East studies, I think I. M. Lapidus is the first to have used it positively as a method of urban research, although he initially used terms such as social relations, or social ties, and only intentionally adopted ‘networks‘ as a term designating his method of Islamic study in general in his article of 1975 which was written from a comparative perspective. In this article, he used the word of ‘network‘ on three levels: as an analytical tool, as a metaphor for “informal and unstructured interconnections” of Islamic societies, and as a metaphor for Islamic culture.1 Today scholars are taking as their subjects social networks such as the ‘ulamā‘, merchants, artisan, Sufi orders, the quarters, the family, outlaws, and patron-client relationships to shed positive light on cities and local societies at particular periods, whether they use
the word ‘network‘ or not. Outside of Middle East studies, most scholars also show
increasing recourse to the word of ‘network‘: Historians of Chinese societies present a new approach in regarding power as a nexus of formal and informal, physical and metaphysical, relations.1 As early as the 1960s the Annales school of French history employed the word sociabilité to designate social relationship in clubs, fraternities, quarters and so on.2 As for studies on Japanese cities, some scholars are drawing attention to networks of traveling artisans and merchants, and religious men, and their relations to the authority of the city. They are creating a new definition of the ‘city‘ as, I dare to say, “asylum” for those people3, challenging the commune model of West European cities which had long influenced Japanese urban studies.