DS0801 -

A historical approach of the « Environmental Transition » : socio-political innovations to manage environmental risks in urban environments (1950s-2000s) – TRANSENVIR





Submission summary

A historical approach of the « Environmental Transition » : socio-political innovations to manage environmental risks in urban environments (1950s-2000s)

The TRANSENVIR project is conceived to propose a coherent and well-documented framework to understand the role held by French cities in the rise, institutionalisation and reconfiguration of environmental policies. It is an answer to the questions raised in the 8th challenge of the 2016 call for projects and particularly to its first theme, "Relation to risk and social innovation". TRANSENVIR is designed to investigate the relationships between contemporary urban and suburban societies and their environment during the second half of the 20th century. It aims to show how the risks (real or perceived) entailed by urbanization and the urban way of life have served as a lever for the implementation of social and political innovations. Our historical inquiry, starting before the birth of institutions devoted to the environment (that can be dated to the beginning of the 1970s), will focus on a rich panel of actors implied in what we will call the « environmental transition » of industrialized societies since the 1950s : local associations, scientists, political leaders, trade unions, industrial managers, etc. The urbanization process and the cities and suburban areas will be at the core of the investigation, in order to assess the role of urban risks in environmental management's innovations. The research team will pay careful attention to the multiple levels of action, in particular at a transnational level, where most norms have been produced and discussed before being applied to urban society and its environment. By embracing into the enquiry all these scales where environmental problems can be addressed, TRANSENVIR's results will contribute to the understanding of the current methods of environmental risks management.

The project is structured around three main research topics, each of them giving rise to a collective enquiry conducted with different methodologies.
In the first one, « city, environment and social innovation », the research will be conducted both at a national level (elaboration of national strategies, role of State experts...) and at a local one, by comparing two agglomerations, Lyons and Grenoble, with interesting environmental conditions, such as industrial zones, car trafic issues, but also with different socio-political configurations in the 1960s-1980s.
The second one, « risks definition and management » interface science/société is devoted to a series of transdisciplinary seminars that will address the evolution of words and definitions linked to risks and environment, and to four precise case-studies : the first French policies against air pollution, in particular the pollution by automobile exhausts ; the setting of action plans against noise pollution, suspected to cause specific nervous illnesses in the cities ; the definition and management of risks attributed to the big planned housing programmes of the 1950s-1960s ; the ecological risks for aquatic biota caused by the increasing urban sewerage systems. The team will still approach them with a strong territorial dimension (French nation-State / Lyons / Grenoble).
The third subject consists in a careful examination of the links between the transnational sphere of policy-making and scientific networks, and the local scene of urban environments. Indeed, the urban environmental risk is not confined to cities or agglomerations, but it a problem that crosses national boundaries, under different forms, as major industrial accidents have clearly demonstrated since the 1970s. The case-studies around which the second axis was structured will provide good topics to analyse the cross-border interconnectedness of environmental issues and the functioning of the experts' networks, either official (WHO, Council of Europe and EEC, etc.) or unofficial, such as NGO and cities' international associations.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Stéphane Frioux (Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône Alpes)

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.


LARHRA - CNRS Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône Alpes

Help of the ANR 216,237 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2016 - 36 Months

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