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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 and Deviance
  • Sociological Theory
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Online Ethnography

Baptiste initially examined how behaviours considered to be symptoms of mental disorders are socially shaped: his Ph.D. dissertation aims to provide a sociological model explaining how individuals come to the practice of self-injury and his postdoctoral research deals with dementia care and diagnosis. These initial interests currently lead him to some developments regarding the "micro-macro link" in sociological theory, through recent studies on 'behavioural addictions' and on utopias.


Baptiste is a French scholar who graduated at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the École Normale Supérieure de Paris with a Masters and a PhD in Sociology. He worked in France and Canada and arrived in Australia for a Lecturer appointment at the ANU School of Sociology.

Researcher's projects

Sociological Theory: Social Structures, Everyday Life and the Mind (Transversal Research)

Through my different projects, I strive to construct a theoretical perspective on the micro-macro link. I especially concentrate on merging the contributions of three authors: Goffman, with his focus on the interaction order, Bourdieu, and his conceptualization of social action as social positioning, and Elias, the relations he establishes between power networks and individuals' emotional control. This long-term work aspires to an understanding of how the social world structures selves and minds, and how this processs reveals itself in everyday life. This area of interest led me to pay particular attention to "mental health" issues (as reflected by my research on self-injury and dementia) and to certain authors - as I am also deeply inspired by Cooley's approach to the mind and socialisation and Hacking's "looping effect". A current outcome of this research axis is a special issue of the European Journal of Social Theory dealing with intersections between sociology and psychological approaches, that I prepare with Nicolas Sallée (University of Montreal). 

A Study of 'Behavioural Addictions' in Australia (2016-...)

Over the last thirty years, ‘behavioural addiction’ has emerged as a topic of concern among health professionals and the subject of a growing body of medical and popular literature. In contrast to substance use, behavioural addicts are viewed as pathologically attached to activities such as work, using the internet, having sex and exercising that are not only categorised as normal but have a high normative value. The category of behavioural addiction thus represents a compelling example of contested medicalisation, in which normal behaviours take on a deviant quality and become tied to a medical label. The absence of large scale data on these issues reflects the emerging nature of behavioural addiction as a phenomenon and its uncertain place within the scientific canon. The general aim of this project is to develop a socio-historical understanding of behavioural addiction, including both the emergence of behavioural addiction as a medical category and the lived experience of behavioural addiction among Australians.

Imagining the Future: A Sociology of Utopias (2017-…)

Under which social conditions can the anticipation of the future, in a given society at a given time of history, take the form of utopia? This research will be coupled with a teaching provided in the second semester of 2017: working from in-depth cases studies (More's Utopia, Campanella's The City of Sun, Chavannès' The Future Commonwealth, Fabien's Paris en Songe, etc.), I will search the common social features underlying this specific type of engagement: designing an utopia. Thus, not only the contents of utopias will be examined, but also the social conditions of their emergence and their actual influence on societies. 

The social experience of dementia (2011-2016)

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. For example, they are progressively discredited, in the sense that their relatives and health professionals do not believe them anymore when they talk. By extension, this whole network of interactions frames the experience of the disease: symptoms are embedded in social interactions where patients inseparably experience cognitive losses and relationship changes. The goal of this research is to map out this social configuration. To do so, I have conducted several fieldwork projects in France and Canada: observation of geriatric consultations, historical study of diagnostic tools, observation in nursing homes, interviews with nursing home staff members and managers, participation in qualitative surveys about family mobilization around patients and in-depth interviews with patients.

A Sociological Approach to Self-Injury (2007-2011)

My PhD dissertation proposed a sociological theory aiming to explain why some people, often teenagers, self-injure, based on a five-year survey conducted among self-injurers met in online forums and in mental health institutions. Drawn by in-depth presentations of personal stories, this analysis proceeds in two steps. First, a precise description of how self-injury occurs on a regular basis allows grasping what role this practice plays in everyday life, the emotions it relates to, and the set of social interactions it is embedded in. Second, it addresses the following question: why do certain people, in certain social configurations, come to see self-injury as a necessity to manage their daily life? To answer it, I identified the three main distinctive features of self-harming (a discrete, “deviant” and body-directed practice) and showed how social positioning issues in the family of concerned people leads them to make sense of these features.

The Case of Charles H. Cooley’s legacy: Deference in Academia (2015-2017)

While he is a founding father of sociology, Charles H. Cooley is almost unknown in Francophone academia, and relatively unacknowledged in the Anglophone sociology. This observation inspired by for some reseearch. On the one hand, I translated one of Cooley’s article into French (“social consciousness”), exploring, in parallel, the reasons for which he is unknown in France, from translation issues (translating some words such as “mind” or “self” into French raises major epistemological concerns) to concerns related to the international circulations of thoughts. On the other hand, I am currently working with Natalia Ruiz-Junco (Auburn University) on a collective book exploring Cooley's legacy and potential for contemporary sociology, as well as on an article approaching the construction of classicality in sociology - through the case of Cooley. 

Social Sciences Research on the Internet (2010-…)

Following my ethnographic work on the Internet forums dedicated to self-injury, I stay involved in this research area, as a co-founder and member of the editorial board of the bilingual (English and French) academic journal Reset. Social Science Research on the Internet, and in regularly developing teachings on this matter.


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Updated:  15 December 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers