CE26 - Innovation, travail

Margins to norms. Crossing perspectives on transformations of family in Africa – Marges

Submission summary

The aim of this project is to show how social change dynamics operate from practices that are at the margin of social norms. Margins are understood as practices that deviate from prevailing social prescriptions and statistical trends. These are considered in their ambivalent effect on the dominant norms: on the one hand, they can lead to forms of social exclusion; on the other hand, they confront the prescribed norms and make them evolve. These questions are applied to social situations concerning the family taken in its broad definition.

Four thematic lines of research structure this study. The first concerns residential forms and household configurations (female and male alone-parent households, households in which children live without any of their ascendants, and popular rental housing units that include several unrelated households). The second deals with matrimonial status at the margin that is celibacy or free union. The third deals with the specific forms of domestic economy developed within households (circulation of goods and services, economic and domestic arrangements within couples who claim to be equal, care for the elderly and dependents as well as their roles in this domestic economy). The last research line problematizes fertility, infertility and sexuality (forms of marginal sexuality that combine age difference, multi-partnership and material exchanges).

This analysis will be done through a cross-fertilization approach between demography and socio-anthropology in three African cities: Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Lome (Togo) and Antananarivo (Madagascar). The proposed comparative approach will both highlight data collected during a previous ANR program (FAGEAC) on Ouagadougou and Lome, as well as include the production of novel data on these cities as well as on Antananarivo.

Data collection and analysis will be done through a multidisciplinary methodology combining socio-anthropology and demography. Crossing perspectives has a twofold interest: allowing both to reflect on the heuristic issues of each of these disciplines, and to participate in a reflection that discusses the relationship between margins and social norms, social margins and statistics, statistical margins and social norms, statistical norms and social margins.

By seeking to highlight innovative social practices and / or invisibilized in research, we investigate the dynamics, the processes of changing standards and the future of norms. Thus, understanding how social innovation proceeds through a joint socio-anthropological and demographic analysis of margins and their impact on norms is the challenge of this research program which will aim to create a constructive bridge between the world of research and transformative actions.

Keywords: Family, margins, norms, socio-anthropology, demography, social change, social innovation.

Project coordination

Fatoumata Ouattara (Laboratoire Population-Environnement-Développement)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Université de Lomé / Unité de Recherche Démographique
Université de Lomé / Département d'anthropologie
WiLDAF-AO Women in Law and Development in Africa
UCM Université catholique de Madagascar / Département des sciences sociales appliquées au développement (SSAD)
ISSP Université de Ouagadougou / Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population
INSS/CNRST Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique / Institut des Sciences des Sociétés
LPED Laboratoire Population-Environnement-Développement

Help of the ANR 369,543 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2020 - 36 Months

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