Cohen, Déborah

Assistant Professor

University of Rouen, France


Max Weber alumnus

Department of History and Civilization

Cohort(s): 2006/2007

Ph.D. Institution

École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France


My dissertation, defended in 2004 at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris, adviser : Arlette Farge), was entitled Le peuple: de l’Autre au différent. La construction des identités individuelles et collectives des classes populaires. France, XVIIIe siècle (The People: from the Other to the Different. The Construction of individual and collective popular identities in Eighteenth-Century France).
It analyses, in its first part, how, for most of the first half of the eighteenth century, discourse on social identity forms part of a deductive mode of thought, which eclipses the individual in favor of the group and presents social conditions as essences, whereas, in the mid-1760’s, a contrasting empiricist and “nominalist” trend emerges along with individual representations of people from the popular classes.
The second part of this dissertation discusses how this identity discourse influences the people. Following Bourdieu’s method, we explore (through judicial archives) the signs of the embodiment of naming. But, our observation of daily interactions also shows evidence of a pragmatic culture that escapes definition by the elite.
Following this path, my current project would like to be part of a larger intellectual history of sociology not as a discipline but as a way of describing the social world and social identities. What kind of propositions about social identities can be enounced at a certain moment in society as a whole ? by whom ? what is thinkable and what is unthinkable about social identities ? I will begin with examining discourse of political economy at the end of the Eighteenth-century, and particularly the way liberals and their opponents understand popular judgment.

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