Groupe d’Etude des Méthodes de l’Analyse Sociologique de la Sorbonne

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Séminaire d’analyse des Structures et des Processus Sociaux (SPS) 2018-2019


Le séminaire d’analyse des Structures et des Processus Sociaux (SPS) prend acte de débats qui animent la littérature scientifique internationale et transforment en profondeur la sociologie contemporaine. Il met plus particulièrement l’accent sur la « stratégie de recherche » (research design), ce rapport entre la formulation des théories, la collecte des données et les méthodes. Plusieurs constats motivent cette réflexion. Les interactions renforcées entre les sciences sociales et diverses disciplines dessinent de nouvelles perspectives conceptuelles pour analyser la société. Informatique, linguistique, statistique, biologie sont régulièrement convoquées, en plus des autres disciplines des sciences sociales. De même, l’adoption de nouvelles méthodes, de l’intelligence artificielle aux simulations en passant par la fouille de corpus interrogent la pratique de la recherche et permettent de nouvelles interactions entre approches quantitatives et qualitatives. À la lumière des connaissances classiques, le séminaire SPS se donne ainsi pour objectif de discuter, sans a priori thématique ou disciplinaire, les travaux qui interrogent ces aspects et permettent ainsi d’approfondir notre compréhension du monde social.


16.11.2018 Ken-Hou Lin (UT Austin)
Immigration and Wage Distribution in the United States.

This article examines the potential impact of immigration on the wage distribution in the United States. Departing from the focus on how the average wages of different groups respond to immigration, we examine how immigrants shape overall wage distribution. While there is some evidence indicating that an increased presence of low-skilled immigrants is associated with wage losses at the lower end of native wage distribution, a similar competition is neither observed between high-skilled immigrants and natives at the upper end nor within high-skilled occupations. Instead, the presence of foreign-born workers, whether high- or low-skilled, is associated with substantial gains for natives in the upper half of the distribution, particularly those at the very top. Consequently, increased immigration is associated with rising wage inequality.

14.12.2018 Henning Hillman (Mannheim)
Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Data : The Case of Historical Networks.

Evidence on social networks from historical sources may offer insights that are rarely gained from other data sources, including a deeper understanding of longterm developments and causal sequences of economic and political behavior. Yet, once we move from mere anecdotes toward systematic quantitative analysis, historical networks confront us with challenges of their own : such as issues related to selected samples, missing cases, or the lack of adequate comparison cases. Here I consider solutions to some of these challenges, drawing on an ongoing book project on the development of the local merchant elite of Saint-Malo over the course of the long 1681-1792 period. Evidence comes primarily from affiliation networks that embedded some 6,298 individual merchants within 3,250 venture partnerships that I collected and coded from archival records.

18.01.2019 Stefania Vicari (Leicester)
Social Media and Health Issue Publics : A Case Study of BRCA Knowledge Production on Twitter.

Several studies have focused on “digital storytelling” as a key factor to learn and share knowledge about health on social media. But is storytelling the only element used by lay actors to discuss about health on these platforms ? In social media interactions does lay, experiential knowledge mix or clash with authoritative and possibly other forms of knowledge ? To tackle these questions, this study takes two specific steps. First, it addresses the health networked communities described in previous research as “heath issue publics” because their action - challenging traditional structures of power in the management of health knowledge - is politically relevant and draws upon three elements fundamental to issue publics : personal experience, group identification and life values. Second, it draws attention to the content, type and sources of the knowledge produced and shared on mainstream social media. By applying a digital methods approach, the study specifically investigates Twitter discursive work produced in a 30-day time frame by the health issue public focused on the BRCA gene mutation, a hereditary cancer condition. Preliminary results show that knowledge produced on Twitter by the BRCA issue public combines storytelling with scientific information, drawing upon both personal and academic sources, with patient advocates playing a key role in providing up-to-date and specialist information related to clinical research and scientific innovation. These findings show high potential for future work on the role of social media platforms in enhancing the impact of expert and engaged patients on health public debate, community building and lay-professional collaborations.

15.02.2019 Haley McAvay (INED)
The Symbolic Dimension of Citizenship Categories : Evidence from French Longitudinal Data.
(en collaboration avec Louise Caron et Mirna Safi)

In France, the census measures citizenship in three categories : French by birth (français de naissance), naturalized French (français par acquisition) and Foreigner (étranger). These categories convey an official administrative and legal usage which is supposed to be objective and neutral. Yet, they are also infused with symbolic connotations, namely when they are self-declared by respondents. Using French longitudinal data (L’échantillon démographique permanent, 1975-2008), this paper aims at exploring the mechanisms underpinning citizenship declarations by focusing on individual changes in self-classification over time. While transitions between “foreigner” and “naturalized French” are consistent with immigrants acquiring French nationality, we focus on an anomalous type of change that hardly corresponds to a real change in legal status : transitioning from non-native (foreign or naturalized) to native (French by birth) status over time, or what we call national reclassification. We analyze how this change is driven by assimilation, socioeconomic and ethnoracial variables. The findings show that net of other factors, switching to French-by-birth status tends to be stronger among respondents who are born in France, naturalized and married to French citizens, as well as among most non-European origins. Lower education and employment status is also correlated with this change. Finally, the findings suggest causal effects of getting married to a French citizen and naturalizing over time on national reclassification in instrumental variable models.

15.03.2019 Diego Gambetta (Carlo Alberto, Turin)
The politics behind the veil.

19.04.2019 Jen Schradie (Observatoire sociologique du changement - OSC, Sciences Po)
Pluralism, Participation and Personalization : How Digital Activism Fails to Deliver

A classic theory of “polyarchy” argues that different types of political groups can overcome power imbalances because competing interest groups can keep power in check, creating a system wherein any citizen can make their voice heard. Yet as society has grown more complex, the levers of government have come to be seen as increasingly distant from the citizenry and rigged in favor of the powerful. Online activism, by “flattening” communication networks, seemed to hold out the possibility of reinstating the pluralist ideal, updating this democracy debate for the digital age. The basic idea behind techno-optimist rhetoric is that digital technologies offer a means of overcoming these power imbalances and returning to a (new and improved) version of polyarchy. This digital democracy would result from reducing the costs of participation and coordination, while also creating more direct channels to connect “the people” with those in power, without organizational dogma or hierarchies running the show. Yet most of the academic literature that makes these arguments focuses on national and international left-leaning movements, as well as more educated early-adopters. Instead, Schradie takes a political field level approach to understand what everyday people are doing with their political work and digital technology. With a U.S. case, she analyzes social movement political, labor and social movement groups from different political ideologies, organizational structures and social classes to understand how, and how much, they use the internet. Quantitative and qualitative results from both online and offline data show that conservatives, who tend to be more hierarchical and resourced, have much higher levels of digital engagement. This research is featured in her book out in May by Harvard University Press : The Revolution That Wasn’t : How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives.

17.05.2019 Jens Beckert (MPI, Cologne)
Imagined Futures : Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics.

In a capitalist system, consumers, investors, and corporations orient their activities toward a future that contains opportunities and risks. How actors assess uncertainty is a problem that economists have tried to solve through general equilibrium and rational expectations theory. Powerful as these analytical tools are, they underestimate the future’s unknowability by assuming that markets, in the aggregate, correctly forecast what is to come. Jens Beckert adds a new chapter to the theory of capitalism by demonstrating how fictional expectations drive modern economies—or throw them into crisis when the imagined futures fail to materialize. Collectively held images of how the future will unfold are critical because they free economic actors from paralyzing doubt, enabling them to commit resources and coordinate decisions even if those expectations prove inaccurate. Beckert distinguishes fictional expectations from performativity theory, which holds that predictions tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Economic forecasts are important not because they produce the futures they envision but because they create the expectations that generate economic activity in the first place. Actors pursue money, investments, innovations, and consumption only if they believe the objects obtained through market exchanges will retain value. We accept money because we believe in its future purchasing power. We accept the risk of capital investments and innovation because we expect profit. And we purchase consumer goods based on dreams of satisfaction. As Imagined Futures shows, those who ignore the role of real uncertainty and fictional expectations in market dynamics misunderstand the nature of capitalism.

28.05.2019 Andrew Abbott (Chicago)
The Infinite Character of the Social Process : Theoretical Problems and Methodological Implications.

What are the kinds of things that, at any time, do and don’t appear in our means of knowing the social process ? One answer is that many of the invisible things tend to be what I shall call “pervasions.” By pervasions I mean phenomena that are relatively small, but rather widely distributed, and that have, therefore, a decisive but elusive impact on the social process. It will be my contention that such phenomena end up being ignored by social scientists, for a variety of reasons that are inherent in our knowledge practices. Such pervasions, however, also make visible a number of not practical but theoretical issues, all of which can be linked to the more general problem of the ways in which the social process is infinite. In this paper I discuss examples, aspects, mechanisms, and other things about pervasions. At the end, I glance briefly at the theoretical issues they raise in terms of events.

Université Paris-Sorbonne
Maison de la recherche
28 Rue Serpente
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Ivan Ermakoff (EHESS-Cespra et Université du Wisconsin à Madison) <>
Gianluca Manzo (CNRS –GEMASS) <>
Etienne Ollion (CNRS –SAGE) <>
Ivaylo Petev (CNRS –CREST) <>
Paola Tubaro (CNRS –LRI) <>

Ce séminaire est rattaché à l’axe n°1 du GEMASS : Mécanismes sociaux et rationalité de l’acteur (responsable Gianluca Manzo)

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Dernière mise à jour le : mercredi 12 juin 2019