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History and Scientific Objectives


The Laboratory of Social dynamics and spatial reconstruction (LADYSS) is a multidisciplinary UMR (Mixed Research Unit) located in 4 university sites (Paris 1, Paris 7, Paris 8, and Paris 10). Associated with two Institutes of CNRS (National Centre of Scientific Research), the Institute of Human and Social Sciences (INSHS) and the Institute of Ecology and the Environment (INEE), Ladyss is dependent on two sections of CNRS (39 and 36) and 3 sections of CNU (National University Centre) (19, 23 and 24). It was created in 1997, after the fusion of two laboratories, each representing a different discipline : sociology (GRMSE, H. Mendras and M. Jollivet) and geography (STRATES, M. Rochefort and N. Mathieu). The present affiliations of these members cover numerous disciplines in Human and Social Sciences.

Let us recap on what the objectives of LADYSS looked like in 2007. Cross-analyses of social dynamics and shifting spatial patterns : one of our key research focuses inherited from the groups of researchers who founded the institute (GRMSE and Strates) and a shared goal of teasing out the links between territorial dynamics and social transformations. The idea that brought together researchers from different disciplines – geography, bio-geography, sociology, anthropology – was to analyse territorialisation processes of both individual and collective action broken down into a study of a world-system and day-to-day existence composed of local issues, via research objects that are especially representative of the transformation of contemporary societies, such as those of the environment.

This idea, which underpinned many of our research projects from 2007 on, was given renewed impetus by the IT revolution and the increasing importance of virtual worlds : reaffirmation of the importance of materiality and "naturalness" of territories and objects in forging social ties. This reaffirmation was grounded in a solid methodological basis : interdisciplinarity figured – and still figures – among LADYSS researchers’ key preoccupations and is one of its members’ identifying markers. Being a member of LADYSS is in some ways accepting to be part of this interdisciplinary challenge, both internally, between researchers in the human and the social sciences, and externally, between researchers in the human and social sciences and those in the social and physical sciences.

Consequently, those conducting research into the importance of territorialisation in processes of change have much to say to stakeholders on the ground about how they fit into the wider scheme of things. For removed from the restrictive dichotomies of research, its long timeframes and bases of representation on the one hand, and action, urgency and the channels for circulating scientific expertise on the other, such a meeting attributes great importance to "hybrid" moments, i.e., those that draw upon various different registers of research and action.
These meetings are of a hybrid nature for a number of reasons :
- stakeholders encountered in the territories help formalise and sometimes structure data via concepts or modi operandi that emerge from their increased frequentation of the territories so that researchers borrow from stakeholders as much as stakeholders need researchers ;
- considerable importance is attributed to local know-how ("participative science", "street science") in the production of science which modifies the content in epistemological terms. Obviously, these developments give renewed significance to science-society debates as well as to the role of science in society ;
- from this perspective as well, the traditional presentation of how science actually works (inductive or deductive) – theoretical and conceptual framework, problems and assumptions being challenged, definition of investigation methods and techniques, analysis and discussion, return to a theoretical and conceptual framework – is partially set aside in favour of iterative approaches and increasingly numerous meetings with stakeholders in the field with a view to formulating the hypothesis in question or debating the findings of the analyses.

Four research axes and a transverse approach

LADYSS’ new project has four main research axes. The first concerns globalisation : "Socio-spatial recomposition in globalization". The second is bound up with "Everyday territories : representations, practices and projects". The third is entitled "Environment and development : towards a new paradigm ?” and the fourth : "Health issues and territories". The research teams in charge of these four axes are located at different sites and also have links to a number of different doctoral schools. These diverse links are a big plus for LADYSS’ project and represent both disciplinary and institutional diversity that make it way more than just a collection of individuals. It is precisely this diversity that helps forge scientific cohesion. The transverse approach "Science-society relationships through field tests" has been devised to create a high point during the year in terms of a collective dynamic.

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