Nexus analysis is a methodological guidebook which proposes strategies for ethnography, discourse analysis and action research. The methodology is shown through case study exemplification, focussing primarily on Native Alaskan’s access to higher education between 1978 and 1983. Nexus analysis concentrates on how people, places, discourses and objects interrelate to facilitate action and social change, rather than elaborating one theoretical / methodological component in isolation. For the authors, social life takes place through individual actions but these actions are afforded only with respect to various potentially relevant aspects of the context. That is to say that broader social actions are grounded in micro actions of social interaction and that micro actions are the nexus through which larger cycles of social organisation and activity circulate.
A nexus is exposes as a “repeated site of engagement where some type of social action is facilitated by a relatively consistent set of social processes”. The social action can be understood by looking at the historical body of the participants and objects, the interaction order and the discourses, both overt and covert, that are in place. It is crucial to analyse what cycles of discourse for a specific moment of human interaction come together to form the social action and to navigate these discourse cycles to see how they are constituted out of past practices and how they lead to new forms of interaction.
There are three steps to nexus analysis: engaging, navigating and changing. Engaging involves discovering the social actions and actors that are crucial in the production of a social issue and in bringing about change. It is about observing the interaction order that actors mutually produce themselves and determining the most significant cycles of discourse which enable the action. During this step it is important that the researcher by recognised by other participants as a participant him/herself. That is to say that the researcher must establish a zone of identification.
The second step of nexus analysis is navigating. This involves understanding how people came to be placed at a specific historical moment to carry out an action and to what extent this action is a practice for the actors. It also involves analysis the overt and covert discourses which pass through the action and the objects that are used and the extent to which they are designed for the action, change through the action or result in transformation by the action. At this stage in the analysis, it may be necessary to open up the circumference of analysis to understand further discourse cycles which are passing through the action.
Lastly, nexus analysis involves changing: making communications between the actions and reengaging in the nexus of practice to transform the actions into new discourses and new practices. The Nexus Analysis powerpoint found here accompanies a tutorial I will give in which I review this book. It also exemplifies each stage of nexus analysis with work by the authors.
In conclusion, nexus analysis is a methodological framework which sees all actions as being positioned in various cycles. It looks to embrace the embeddedness in places of research study.