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Towards a critical moral anthropology (MORALS)
Start date: 01 Jul 2009, End date: 30 Jun 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Consubstantial to the founding project of social sciences, moral issues have been eclipsed for a long time in sociological and anthropological research. Without neglecting recent efforts of social scientists to readdress them, my intention is to take up this repressed ambition by laying the foundations of a critical moral anthropology. The crucial importance of morals in everyday life as well as in global crisis, in the evaluation of actions as well as in the justification of policies, in the relations with others as well as in the construction of social identities makes this ambition a reasonable necessity. Empirical validation will be done through a comparative ethnography of moral economies around two groups: immigrants in juridical precariousness; adolescents from underprivileged areas. Our study will concern their interactions with regulation structures police and justice, social work and mental health. It will enlighten the concepts of moral work and stakes, of moral categories and evaluation, of moral communities and boundaries. Fieldwork will be mainly conducted in the banlieues of Paris. For the immigrants, we will study how situations and claims are evaluated at the border to enter the territory (Waiting Zone for Foreigners of Roissy) or in case of appeal for refugees (National Court for Asylum); we will also analyze processes of sanction for their illegal situation (Retention Center of Coquelles) or for offences (Prisons of La Santé, Fresnes and Val d Oise). For the adolescents, we will focus on the ordinary setting of institutions in charge of these publics (Val d Oise), but also on two innovative responses based on mental health (Network of Yvelines Sud and House for Adolescents of Val d Oise East). Based mainly on anthropology and sociology, the project also involves political science, philosophy, psychology and psychiatry. The research team includes the PI, 5 post-docs, 5 PhD students and two part-time researchers, all from IRIS.
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