CE55 - Sociétés et territoires en transition

Outposts of science. Comparing Scientific Infrastructures on the margins of Overseas France – SciOUTPOST

Submission summary

Since the 1970s, the social sciences have analyzed science as a historically and geographically situated social practice, an approach that has undoubtedly transformed our view of scientific production. SciOUTPOST sheds light on scientific places at the margins of French overseas territories inherited from its colonial past. This project proposes to test and theorize the concept of “scientific outpost” as one possible development for lab-studies, useful to characterize scientific places that are neither calculation centers nor fieldwork sites: these outposts are remote, permanent, relatively autonomous. They induce a temporary monastic-life where scientists and nonscientists, private and intensive professional life, are intertwined. Place-based practices in these outposts shaped by geopolitical (often postcolonial) context also produce universal knowledge and exclude possible local knowledge.
This project will be pursued in an interdisciplinary manner, linking approaches from STS, political sociology, anthropology, geography and history. Moreover, SciOUTPOST will promote exchange with natural scientists working in the investigated infrastructures. Each case study will be carried out through a combination of fieldwork (in-situ observation, life histories, interviews) and archival study, guided by the shared conceptual framework.
The concept of outpost will be tested by progressively extending the comparison, from a first stage already explored with space launch centers (Algeria), volcanological observatories (Martinique) and tropical biology stations (Fr. Guyana), to astronomical observatories, polar stations (Arctic and Antarctic), TAAF Islands, meteorological stations, or archaeological stations in Maghreb. The comparison will also be made between historical periods, geographic areas (and ecosystems), various disciplines, and then the "nationality" of these scientific infrastructures, beyond the French overseas territories which remain the focus of SciOUTPOST.

Project coordination

David Dumoulin (Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur les Amériques)

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.


CURAPP-ESS Université Picardie Jules-Verne Amiens
IRIS Institut de recherche interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux sociaux Sciences sociales, Politique, Santé
CESHS Centre Jacques Berque pour les études en sciences humaines et sociales
CITERES Université de Tours
LISE Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers Paris
CESSP Centre national de la recherche scientifique
PRINTEMPS Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
CREDA Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur les Amériques
RDS Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris

Help of the ANR 473,311 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2023 - 48 Months

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