array(2) { [0]=> string(4) "toto" [1]=> string(4) "titi"} cems : Presentation of CEMS

Présentation |

Presentation of CEMS

Presentation of CEMS

CEMS is an EHESS research centre which, along with the CENJ (Centre d’étude des normes juridiques), LIAS (Linguistique, Anthropologique et Sociolinguistique) and LIER (Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d’études sur les réflexivités) is part of the Institut Marcel Mauss (UMR 8178 CNRS/EHESS). It is home to approximately twenty researchers and teacher-researchers.



Since its creation by Alain Touraine, CEMS has asserted itself as one of France’s leading centres for the development of conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools for sociological analysis. Under the supervision of its founder, it has set itself the task of understanding social movements from the standpoint of the political activity deployed by the actors and by specific political organisations (unions, parties, and then post-1968 movements: women, minorities, immigrants, etc.). During a later period, after the departure of A. Touraine and the creation of the CADIS, CEMS’ research moved away from this approach and tried to take account of the infra-institutional and infra-state dynamics which relate to social change, by showing how the forms of engagement and the expectations and demands expressed by citizens were changing in a largely underground manner and somewhat removed from public demonstrations of political action. In taking this direction, since the early 1980s CEMS has played an active role in the processes of innovation which have established new perspectives for sociological analysis, opening up new areas of study, introducing new issues (such as the “public space”, “limit-experiences”, the erosion of the labour society, or “gender”), experimenting with methods the validity of which was then upheld within the discipline (moral anthropology, political ethnography, ethnomethodology, the pragmatics of collective action, the theory of public spheres, the sociology of science and technology, the sociology of the media and of reception, conversational analysis, the construction of public issues).  


Over the last ten years or so, an essential part of the work done by CEMS researchers has converged towards a joint effort to identify and analyse what we might call the “democratic public space” – conceived as the broad area of activity within which members of a society organise respect for multiple opinions and lifestyles, and within which the sphere of individual and collective rights and freedoms is constantly reconfigured (through demands, mobilisation and protest). It is from this standpoint that CEMS’ research has made important contributions towards the analysis of political and cultural events, by initiating the development of several original approaches: a hermeneutic of events, an analytic of the experience of public space, a sociological conception of reception, a conceptual analysis of the transformation of models of the exercise of power and a moral and political ethnography of the construction of public issues. It is on this basis that the majority of works carried out by members of CEMS over the last four years (2007-2012) has revolved around three areas: the constitution, emergence and handling of public issues; media and the construction of media publics; transformations in public policies and public action.

Scientific project

CEMS’ research activity from 2012 to 2016 is embedded in the laboratory’s dual tradition: analysis of the constitution of the democratic public space, based on the empirical study of “social movements”, with especial focus on the role played by new forms of media coverage; and the development of a pluralist approach in sociology.  

This activity is structured around five areas of research:

1. Social movements and the democratic space

  • 1.1 – The democratic public space and information
        1.1.a – The conditions for forming a critical opinion

        1.1.b – Work, social policies


2. Ordinary forms of policy expression

  • 2.1 – Formulating demands for democracy
  • 2.2 – Public space and lifestyles
  • 2.3 – Forms of public expression, the internet and social networks


3. Media and social change


4. The democratic public space and its fractures

  • 4.1 – Violence and silence
  • 4.2 – Memory, history and identities


5. Works on theory and method


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Centre d'étude des mouvements sociaux – Institut Marcel Mauss


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