PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (7): 1139-1147.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.07.016

• Socio-Cultural Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review on the application of actor network theory to human geography

LIU Xuan, WANG Xiaoyi   

  1. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2012-11-01 Revised:2013-05-01 Online:2013-07-25 Published:2013-07-25

Abstract: Recently, the actor-network theory (ANT) was widely applied to the field of human geography. ANT approach provides a new perspective by allowing researchers to take into consideration the flow of factors and network interaction. After a brief introduction of ANT, this paper summarizes the progress of ANT applications to human geography by summing up the application topics and methods in different branches, and compares the gap between international and domestic researches. This paper reveals that ANT promotes the progress of human geography in both theory and application. Most theoretic explorations happened in the field of economic geography: the relational economic geography based on ANT provides new angle for the reconstruction of "postmodernism" economic geography theory system. In application, analytical framework of ANT applied to the field of human geography emphasizes actors, translation process, and the result, with special attention to the spatial changes as verification of the effect of actor network. ANT uses a structural way to construct the main actor behaviors, resulting in an effective analysis framework for local development and policy implementation research in every branch of human geography. High citation rates of ANT applied research papers indicate ANT approach is now attracting more and more attention in the field of human geography. However, compared to international researches, domestic researches are relatively lagged and limited. Currently, domestic researches still remain in the stage of applying ANT analysis framework directly with little thinking about theory improvement, while international research is starting to rethink the limitations of ANT approach. Based on recent rethinking of ANT use, this study emphasizes that analytical framework of ANT should be highlighted and the use of ANT should carefully control the size of the network and the list of actors, due to the uncertain research paradigm.

Key words: actor-network theory (ANT), human geography, review