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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
  • Sociological Theory
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Utopias

 

Biography

In 2016, Baptiste arrived at the ANU for a Lecturer appointment at the ANU School of Sociology. He had previously graduated at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (PhD, 2011) and then worked as a Post Doc at the University of Montreal.  

Researcher's projects

 

The Social Genesis of “Mental Disorders”

Baptiste's primary research interest is in the area of mental health. Some sets of behaviors and emotions are socially considered to be related to “mental disorders”. How to analytically describe these behaviors and emotions? How to understand their social genesis, namely, how they "appear in" societies and individuals? The first Based on interviews with 70 self-injurers, Baptiste's PhD dissertation proposes a sociological theory of why some people, in certain social configurations, self-injure. This work has been published in various supports in French, as well as in an article for the journal Symbolic Interaction ("Fighting with Oneself to Maintain the Interaction Order") and in a book at the University of Indiana Press ("Why do we Hurt Ourselves?"; Sept. 2018). Then, Baptiste's research agenda has shifted to exploring the social experience of Alzheimer's disease. 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 multiple interviews and observations with patients, professional and family caregivers, in France as well as in Canada, Baptiste studied how the experience of the disease is embedded within interaction patterns; see his articles in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Sociology of Health and Illness, and a forthcoming book at the University of Indiana Press (Sept. 2019).

Baptiste is currently working to move his agenda forward. First, he is involved in an international project to study the history and experience of "behavioral addictions" to sport, sex, internet and work, in Canada and Australia (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, with Nicolas Moreau, Fabrice Fernandez, Dahlia Namian). Second, he is leading a cross-disciplinary collaboration project between sociologists and psychologists at the ANU, in order to explore the social dimensions of mental health from various disciplinary perspectives (CASS Cross-College Grant; with Tegan Cruwys, Daniel Fassnacht, Helen Keane, Kathleen Klik, Lawrence Saha, Dirk Van Roy). Third, he is developing a critical extension of Ian Hacking's theory of ecological niches, in order to improve the conceptual and methodological tools available to sociologists for investigating the social genesis of mental disorders. 


Patterns in Utopia Production

What are the social conditions of utopia production? While utopian studies have focused on analyzing the content of utopias, addressing definition issues or understanding the role of utopias in social change, this research program proposes to examine the very production of utopias. How can we understand that a given individual, with a given social position, in a given society at a given time of history, gets involved into imagining an 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 project started mid-2017. It consists in realizing in-depth cases studies -selecting a utopian text, gathering documentation about its author and social context of production- and comparing, progressively, each case study with one another to identify recurrent patterns. This initiative requires venturing into multiple contexts, from the 16th Century England to the 1970s in California, through pre-Revolutionary Russia. So far, five sets of promising hypotheses have been identified: (1) the political trajectory of the utopia producer, (2) the cultural and social capitals of the producer, (3) “class distance” expressed through the utopian content, (4) the operations through which the utopian content is generated and (5) the concepts of “utopian niches” and “utopian chains”. The objective of this emerging theory is to provide insights into understanding sociologically utopia production and the precedence taken by dystopia production over utopia production in the course of the twentieth century. 

 

Qualitative Methods

A transversal interest in Baptiste's research agenda is qualitative methodology. Methods are not only a step in sociological research. They determine what sociological analysis can be generated. They shape how theories are anchored to reality. In his publications and teaching, Baptiste addressed several issues related to methodology, such as online ethnography, the “credibility” of participants (i.e. forthcoming article in Sociological Focus), the making 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, where he can share his perspective with advanced students. To develop this perspective, inspired by the School of Chicago, Baptiste wishes to develop local history and ethnograpy in the Canberra area - currently through a partnership with The Green Shed. In addition, he is working on a new article dealing with the development of theories based on qualitative methods, focusing on how these theories construct the "reality" they seek to make sense of (and its different scales, generally called "micro", "meso" and "macro") and critically discussing the theoretical backgrounds of grounded theory, extended case study and abductive analysis. 

 

Social Change and the Interaction Order

Another transversal interest in Baptiste's research agenda is sociological theory, probably due to his socialization to theoretical trends that are often presented as different, if not incompatible: especially symbolic interactionism and Bourdieusian sociology. 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), an edited volume on Cooley’s legacy in contemporary sociology (forthcoming autumn 2018, Routledge, with Natalia Ruiz-Junco) and a finalized research on academic recognition through quantitative and qualitative citation analysis of Human Nature and the Social Order (with Natalia Ruiz-Junco). Furthermore, a theoretical quest underlie the different projects Baptiste gets involved in. Is it possible to elaborate a theory of social change considering, at the same time, everyday life interactions (Goffman), the role of social stratification in the generation of practices (Bourdieu) and the relation between dynamics of power networks and emotional control (Elias)? More specifically, how can we think social, structural changes considering the relative autonomy of the interactions orders from social structures? Some preliminary answers to this question constitute the core of a paper in progress. 

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Updated:  18 June 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers