Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Dr Baptiste Brossard

Ph.D., Sociology. Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Sociology 1608

Research interests

  • Mental Health
  • Sociological Theory
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Utopias



In 2016, Baptiste arrived at the ANU for a Lecturer appointment at the School of Sociology. He had previously graduated at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the École Normale Supérieure de Paris (PhD, 2011) and then worked as a Post Doc at the University of Montreal. In addition to his international profile, Baptiste’s specificity as a research is his interest in various fields: sociology of mental health, sociological theory, utopias, and qualitative methods. 


Researcher's projects

 The Social Genesis of “Mental Disorders”

Through several fieldwork projects, Baptiste aims to describe these sets of behaviors and emotions socially considered to be related to “mental disorders”, exploring their social genesis, analyzing them as interaction patterns. Based on interviews with 70 self-injurers, his PhD dissertation proposed a theory of why certain people, in certain social configurations, self-injure. This work has been published in various supports in French, in an article in the journal Symbolic Interaction and will be presented extensively in a forthcoming book at the University of Indiana Press (September 2018). Baptiste then studied how, from the moment a person is suspected to be suffering from dementia, the people they meet, and the way in which they interact, progressively change. Based on several fieldwork projects in France and Canada, he showed how this network of interactions frames the experience of the disease; see his articles in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Sociology of Health and Illness, and a forthcoming book at the University of Indiana Press (September 2019). Baptiste is currently trying to develop and “scale up” his theoretical perspective of mental health, in preparing exploratory studies on “behavioral addictions”, while paying special attention to the sociological theories aiming at explaining the emergence of mental disorders among individuals and in societies.


Understanding Utopia Production

What are the social conditions of utopia production? How can we understand that a given individual, with a given social position, in a given society at a given time of history, imagines a particularly idealized form of social organization? Is a sociology of utopian imagination possible? Coupled with teaching (SOCY2053, held in Semester 2 2017 and to be hold in Semester 1 2019), this research started mid-2017 and concretely consists in realizing in-depth cases studies: selecting a utopia, gathering significant documentation about its producer and its social context, and comparing, progressively, each case study with one another. This requires venturing into many different contexts, from the 16th Century England to the 1970s in California, through pre-Revolutionary Russia, and to seek recurrent patterns in all these cases.


Sociological Theory and “Structural Interactionism”

There is a broad theoretical quest underlying the different projects Baptiste gets involved in: how would it be possible to elaborate and empirically “test” a general theory of the relations between social structures, everyday interactions and “inner conversations”? Baptiste tries to address this question in merging the models of three authors: Goffman with his reflections on the interaction order, Bourdieu with his conceptualization of social action as social positioning, and Elias about dynamics of power networks and emotional control. Additionally, he aims to revisit some concepts that seem particularly significant to grasp the micro-macro link, such as “norms”, “reflexivity”, “social role” and “social position”. His current works in this area include a special issue of the European Journal of Social Theory on the intersections between sociological and psychological approaches (with Nicolas Sallée, University of Montreal) and an edited volume on Cooley’s legacy in contemporary sociology (with Natalia Ruiz-Junco, Auburn University). Baptiste’s theoretical reflections also nurture his teaching, especially Introduction to Social Psychology (Semester 2, 2018).


Towards an Ethnography of Contemporary Australia 

Methods are not only a step in sociological research. They define what sociology is and determine how theories can be produced and anchored in reality. This is why, from the beginning of his research career, Baptiste paid a lot of attention to methodological issues. His first interest in this area was online ethnography: how can we do ethnographic studies online, and under what conditions? Then, he became interested in various questions, such as the “credibility” of participants (i.e. a forthcoming article in Sociological Focus deals with interviews where participants seem to speak incoherently), the production of a “reality effect” in ethnographic writing and the observation of age-related norms. Since Semester 1 2018, Baptiste took on the ANU School of Sociology Honours methodology course. Inspired by the School of Chicago, his future projects include various fieldwork studies in the Canberra area.


Return to top

Updated:  19 March 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers