English overview | Lines of research

Line 2 - The frontiers of privacy: Injunctions, tensions, resistance

Coordination : Hélène Bretin and Blandine Destremau

This line examines the question of privacy and experiences of privacy at the heart of the analysis of mechanisms of subjugation, desubjugation, and reconstruction of power relations.

Privacy is based on the definition of a frontier between what is private and what is not—in particular what is public. Privacy is therefore a constructed political object, an invention that goes hand in hand with the emergence of the individual as a subject, and therefore with ‘self-ownership’. Privacy can therefore be understood on the basis of different conceptual domains: the individual, the body, and subjectivity. Rather than a definition of the domain in itself, we focus on understanding and questioning the contemporary changes and shifts in the frontiers of privacy, as they can be understood (in particular) through the relations that individuals maintain with the private and public spheres—relations that are themselves understood in the concrete, practical, and moral experiences of daily life.

Using an approach from the critical social sciences, situating oneself on the frontiers of privacy means observing and describing experiences, tensions, and contradictions; but there is also entanglement between, on the one hand, policies of individualisation, autonomy, and self-responsibility, and, on the other, ideological and moralising injunctions. The work pursued in the context of this line of research observes how these experiences and tensions reconfigure the territory of privacy and its frontiers. It examines whether or not they imply new forms of resistance, adaptation, and shifts that can be perceived in practices, languages, and positionings in terms of identity and relations. This work involves a diversity of fields and pays particular attention to temporalities, subjectivities, gender constructions, and moral economies, based on individual and collective experiences. Several areas of research can be identified:

Temporality in the face of illness and dependency. Interdependence and private ‘presence’

This area articulates various research commitments related to forms of presence and the temporalities that accompany them in the family/household from the perspective of an intersectional and gender analysis. It also looks at the social and transnational arrangements that these forms of presence produce, from the perspective of the ethics of care and the social and sexual division of labour.

Corporality, sexuality, and gender

This area of research connects with line 1 and aims in particular to understand the links between the practices and experiences that engage the body, and the (re)configuration of the territories of privacy related to sexual identities. This area also relates to the ‘disciplines of sexuality’ in their sociohistorical and contemporary dimensions. It makes it possible to establish a space for reflection on what practices from the domain of sexuality and reproduction in the broad sense reveal about privacy and the power relations that operate there.

Educational injunctions and child socialisation

This area opens a new perspective on the spaces of privacy and the construction of subjectivities. Understood in its relationship with the family sphere and its diverse configurations, and with larger socialising groups—the school, the town community, etc.—childhood is the object of practices and experiences that build and define it, and that also mobilise learning and knowledge about issues related, for example, to development and sexuation. Child socialisation also represents fertile ground for observing educational, academic, and domestic injunctions.

Optimising everyday life: From normative promise to technologies of the self

The notion of optimisation, long confined to the economic sphere, seems to have colonised the daily lives of individuals. Individuals are now called on to optimise their body, food, time, sexuality, sleep, and biological and social life. In dialogue with an area of research from line 3, this area examines the domains of everyday life where the forms and discourses of optimisation are deployed. The aim is to go beyond the normativity of the concept by analysing the tricks, negotiations, forms of resistance, and movements performed by individuals confronted with inequalities of ability, wealth, and knowledge.

Food subjectivities: Norms and resistance

Framed by complex and shifting social and cultural rules, food practices are also powerful means to express subjectivity. The search for food autonomy represents a special point of entry to examine the meaning of these practices and the power relations that run through them. The tensions and contradictions inherent in the positive and enchanted ideologies that span food questions are studied. This investigation is an opportunity to examine phenomena of individual resistance and private resistance to moral norms, both new and old.

Sorbonne Paris Nord

Bâtiment Recherche Sud
5 cours des Humanités
93322 Aubervilliers cedex

UFR SMBH 74 rue Marcel Cachin, 93017 Bobigny cedex



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