The CRAPE – Arènes in brief

The CRAPE (Centre for Research on Political Action in Europe)is a joint research unit (UMR 6051) for social sciences, affiliated with CNRS, theUniversity of Rennes 1Science Po Rennes and EHESP (the French School of Public Health), and has signed a partnership with the University of Rennes 2.

For the coming 5-year programme, the CRAPE is taking on a new identity: Arènes – CRAPE

The CRAPE: a multidisciplinary research unit

Its historic background is in political science, but over the years, as its research profile developed, both information and communication sciences and sociology have come to occupy an equally important place. These three disciplines now account for almost 90% of all researchers. The team also includes specialists in modern history as well as a few representatives of other social science and humanities disciplines, such as demographics and health education. This multidisciplinary approach is encouraged in the formulation of research questions, and lies at the heart of the content of many of the Centre’s research projects.

A centre drawing together the site’s social sciences  

Founded at the initiative of Philippe Braud in 1973, at the University of Rennes 1, Faculty of Law, the Centre established several research themes – the local, political communication and political life. The Centre has been affiliated with CNRS since 1982, benefiting from its financial support as well as the appointment of CNRS-funded researchers. Fresh impetus came with the creation of the Political Studies Institute (IEP) in Rennes in 1991. In addition to providing the Centre with additional support and new premises, the IEP also brought considerable momentum, allowing the unit’s research scope to be refreshed – especially under the leadership of Erik Neveu, then Patrick Hassenteufel. During this period, the construction of public problems, analysis of public policy and action, and of political mobilizations became the unit’s outstanding strengths, with the presence of researchers such as Erik Neveu, Patrick Le Galès, Philippe Garraud and Patrick Hassenteufel, as well as new PhDs. Close links were established, as well as an expanded range of Masters programmes validated by the University of Rennes 1 (‘Expertise de l’action publique territoriale’ [CPD in Territorial Governance]; ‘Action et espace public en Europe’ [Governance of Public Space in Europe]; Journalisme Reportage et Enquête [CPD in Journalism: Reporting and Investigating]. The unit’s activity was further diversified and enriched through contributions made by research teams in communication and sociology from the department of Information & Communication at the University Institute (IUT) of Lannion, and the departments of Business & Administration Management and Careers in Social Work at the University Institute (IUT) of Rennes.  The close relationship initiated in the 1990s with the then-ENSP became, in 2012, a formal (secondary oversight) partnership with what is now the Ecole des Hautes Etudes de Santé Publique (EHESP [School of Advanced Studies in Public Health]). Members of the Centre are also affiliated to the Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers. Since 2014, the University of Rennes 2’s involvement has been as a partner establishment, and a formal (secondary oversight) partnership is on the horizon for the new 5-year programme.

A multidisciplinary team with an eye on succession planning 

The research unit now has around a hundred members of staff:

  • 3 CNRS researchers,
  • 52 lecturers (39 senior lecturers and 13 university professors), 3 research fellows
  • 2 CNRS ITA (administrative staff)
  • 5 EHESP engineers
  • 37 current PhD students and ten post-doctoral researchers

Early career researchers are central to the unit’s mission. The Centre ensures that its doctoral students are able to access the necessary equipment and intellectual support to complete their research successfully, providing both research grants (almost all doctoral students currently have thesis funding), as well as financial help – enabling them to take part in national and international conferences or fund their their data collection.

22 of the 45 doctoral students having defended their theses since 2000, 22 have been appointed to CNRS research or university posts, five have found contractual employment (short-term) in research, eight have found stable employment outside the world of research (in most cases as a positive choice), and three have post-doctoral research grants. It is also noteworthy that of 36 staff arriving at the CRAPE since 2000, just seven had completed their theses at the Centre – meaning that 80% were recruited externally. The unit also offers post-doctoral research grants; benefits from the appointment of CNRS research fellows; and frequently plays host to visiting researchers.

The CRAPE is organised into three teams

– Social and Health Policy. Inequalities and Populations (POSSIP) (Leads: Blanche Le BihanBéatrice Valdes)

– Journalism and Public Space  (Leads:Christophe GimbertEugénie SaittaOlivier Trédan)

– Mobilizations, Citizenships and Political Life (Leads: Christine GuionnetBleuwenn Lechaux).

The Centre, with the support of its supervisory bodies and the AERES (Agence d’évaluation de la recherche et de l’enseignement supérieur [Higher Education Research and Teaching Assessment Agency]) will concentrate its research activity within three research teams during 2012–2015. The research team structure is complemented by activities aimed at bridge-building across research areas and teams – often seminars but also in the form of research projects. Building on previous projects, which had themes such as emotion in politics or the dynamics of regionalization, currently the most common areas for cross-team cooperation address questions of methodology, gender, or how both work and social activities are being threatened by rising instability.

For the next 5-year programme, the unit has decided to create a fourth team: Public Policy: Institutions and Scales (Leads: Thomas Frinault and Sébastien Ségas)

Six members of the unit either have been, or currently are, research chairs supported by external partners: INPES ‘Health promotion’ Chair: Eric Breton; EHESP-CNSA ‘Chair of Social Care – Social & Health Matters’ Chair: Claude Martin; Conseil régional de Bretagne ‘Research Chair on Youth’: Patricia Loncle and Science Po Rennes ‘Observatory of Workplace Religious Practice’ Chair: Lionel Honoré. Two new chairs have just been created: the INCA-IRESP-EHESP Research in Cancer Prevention Chair: Linda Cambon and the Science Po Rennes ‘Territories and Mutations of Public Action’ Chair: Romain Pasquier

The UMR 6051 undertakes significant contract research. Whether in the form of competitively awarded research contracts or financing by chairs, the Centre earned €4.2 millions in the course of the last 5-year programme. This activity is open to Europe and enjoys the support of the European Commission (4th Framework Programme for the H2020 programme currently underway), and is also a partner in the international programmes run by the European national research agencies (such as the [French national research agency] ANR’s Open Research Area programme). In addition, it contributes to the intellectual life of several learned societies in the social sciences, such as the ECPR (European Consortium of Political Research) in political science, or ESPAnet (the European Network for Social Policy Analysis). Beyond Europe, the Centre is also a member of the Institut des Amériques (IdA [Institute for the Study of the Americas]). Several members of the Centre are working abroad (in Canada, Brazil and Belgium).

With a strong base in Rennes at the Centre of a regional network, the CRAPE is an integral part of the research framework in the West of France. It is heavily involved in the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme en Bretagne (MSHB), which brings together the researchers of Brittany’s four universities. It plays an active role in the ‘M@rsouin‘ academic network, in the field of communication, as well as in the ‘Institut des Amériques’, and journalism and town planning academic networks. It also colloborates on projects with colleagues from the Centre for Sociology at the University of Nantes.

The Centre’s influence is also demonstrated by its involvement on the international advisory boards of social science journals, including two that are international: Lien social et politiquesSur le journalisme / About journalism / Sobre jornalismo, and the journal Mots. The Centre’s members also engage in editorial activities: participation in around ten social science journals’ editorial boards both in France and abroad, indexed by AERES, as well as such international databases as (abroad):Social Policy and Administration(UK), Current Sociology (UK), Social Movement Studies (UK),Communicazione Politica(Italy), Analíse Social (Portugal),  Revue Suisse de science politique, and in France :SociologiePôle Sud, the journal Politiques sociales et familialesRéseauxgerontologie et société.
Members of the Centre are also involved in the editorial management of two book series, one published by the Presses universitaires de Rennes ‘Res Publica’, and the other by Presses de l’EHESP.

The CRAPE also plays a role in the courses offered by its partner institutions. It is the supporting unit for eight Masters courses offered at the IEP de Rennes ( Masters: (‘Expertise de l’action publique territoriale’ [CPD in Territorial Governance]; ‘Action et espace public en Europe’ [Governance of Public Space in Europe]; Journalisme Reportage et Enquête [CPD in Journalism: Reporting and Investigating], and ‘Histoire et Relations internationales’ [History and International Relations]), with the Faculty of Law and Political Science (‘Politiques européennes’ [European Politics]) and with the EHESP (‘Master in Public Health’, ‘Pilotage des politiques et actions en santé publique [Master in administration of public health policies and programmes]’ and ‘Jeunesse; politiques et prises en charge’ [Master in Youth: policies and care]). Lastly, the CRAPE is one of the research units of the SHOS (Sciences de l’Homme, des Organisations et de la Societé) Doctoral School.

Arènes: a new identity for the unit

ARENES is a concept widely used within what we sometimes refer to as the French school of public policy analysis. In this context, these ‘arènes’ [arenas] represent spaces designated for the discussion of issues likely to give rise to public policy. Yet the CRAPE was largely constituted during the 1990s, around analysis of public policy, which – in its territorial dimension in particular, though also in its health and social dimensions around risk – continues to structure the Centre’s research projects to this day. ARENES (in this instance public arenas) is also a structuring notion in the analysis of public problems – a key field within our unit for more than 20 years now. ARENES, in its specific dimension of ‘media sphere’ is also a notion that is spilling over into everyday language to suggest the role played by journalism and the media in establishing spaces designated for the discussion of public issues, spaces that are also places for the formatting and definition of the sayable and the debatable, for the civilisation of confrontation. Need we point out the level of affinity that a team deeply invested in the media, the public arena and political communication for a quarter of a century had with this concept? Once again, the ARENES are, borrowing now from Alain Faure, « territorial or political stages, of interactions between individuals relating to institutional struggles ». At this juncture, the notion encounters the longstanding attention of the territorially-governed laboratory, with its complexity of forms and systems via which political, partisan and electoral participation, like ‘movementists’, structure regulated confrontation spaces, rule on disputes, and make decision-making possible. The ARENES are thus at once spaces in which matters are publicized, in which deliberations and justification activities take place, as well as political work aimed at having an impact on the world by mobilizing beliefs and representations, places where the competitive definition of the shared rules that structure social and political life can begin. The semantic field of the term thus also functions as a place of connection, a hub, as an aviator would say, putting the essence of our research projects and political flyovers in touch with one another. A new label does, in a way, shed new light on what converges between us, without condemning us to a forced exercise in the invention of coherences. In addition, ARENES also has the advantage of bringing a concept that at once allows – by modulating and working it – connections to be made between research spaces and frontiers between specializations to be leapfrogged. In arenas, configurations of fluid and changing actors confront one another, and rules are improvised or formalized, regulating and civilising political struggle, the impact of demands. This combination of plasticity and rigour still makes sense in a team that can, within its own tradition, lay claim to three values: concern for theoretical pluralism, refusal to be locked into autarkic micro-specialities, and determination to pass on a taste for theory to new generations of doctoral students – yet one that serves to resolve the inexplicable, rather than intimidate or shield (Erik Neveu).

Claude Martin, CNRS Research Director, Unit Director 
Béatrice Damian-Gaillard, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director 
Patricia Loncle, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director
Sami Zegnani, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director

Réalisation : Yann Le Sager - Zen At Work/Studio Ricom