CE36 - Santé publique, santé et sociétés

Asbestos as a State problem: Public Responsibilities, Occupational Health and Collective Mobilization of Civil Servants – AmiEtat

Submission summary

While civil servants have been exposed to toxic materials, their health damages are still little studied by social sciences, in France and more generally in Europe. AmiEtat project aims at studying the making of the asbestos problem in the National Public Service, from the 1970s until today, by observing simultaneously group mobilisation, changes in state regulations and expert controversies throughout national and european institutions. The « Tripode » building, built at Nantes in 1971, is iconic of the administrative decentralisation, it pooled together about 2000 civil servants, mainly women, from three public administrations (Foreign affairs, Public finance, Public statistics).
The « Tripode » case enlightens the triple responsibility of the State (as legislator, regulator and employer) regarding the prevention and recognition of occupational diseases. It opens a field of studies in the regulation of civil service legislation changes and the transformation of health monitoring tools related to asbestos risk over the past four decades. Therefore AmiEtat dialogues with three main scientific production fields : 1. it studies the history of different toxic governing construction according to public or private sectors ; 2. it broadens the social sciences studies dealing with the building of health knowledge and ignorance of risks ; 3. it bridges the public sector’s occupational health scientific blind spot and leads to a renewed look at state « modernisation » process, through a gendered lens.
The research is built on one year exploratory investigation that guarantees its practical feasibility, helps to identify risks that may exist and gathers an operational research team. The survey organisation has three main features.
First, the multi-scalar survey articulates scales using a fresh approach of global micro-history. If the starting point is the group mobilisation of civil servants exposed to asbestos in the “Tripode”, the survey enlightens the importance of this building in the changes in public service national regulations and the transnational circulation of expertise which makes this mobilisation possible.
Second, AmiEtat combines an innovative work on archives and a survey based on semi-directive interviews. More than a hundred interviews will be made with former civil servants who have been exposed to asbestos, with high-ranking officials involved in the management of public service asbestos risk and with politicians, doctors and scientists. These interviews will be transcribed, archived and made accessible to the public at the “Centre d’histoire du travail” of Nantes. Access to written archives will start with the existing Nantes inter-union fonds. The public local and national archives will show the part employee representative bodies played in the perception of asbestos risk in the public administrations concerned.
Third, mails between local civil servants and researchers in medicine and epidemiology will not only enable to trace expertise flows but also enlighten the role of the European institutions in the consideration of asbestos risk in the public service.
Finally, AmiEtat brings together a multidisciplinary team (history, sociology, political science) which is consistent with the topic and proposed methodology. The project members have working habits, survey knowledges and investigation methodologies that this research will strengthen.

Project coordination

Renaud Bécot (Renaud Bécot)

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.


PACTE - IEPG Renaud Bécot
CHT Centre d'Histoire du Travail

Help of the ANR 265,067 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter