All posts by Christophe Jalil Nordman

Water and Socio-Environmental Challenges 2017


The major thread of this 2017 Social Sciences Winter School will be to address issues at the interface between society and environment, especially around water and resource management, through the lens of the social sciences, in different milieus and scale of interpretation, and with different thematic focus and methodological frameworks.Most research in social sciences has historically focused on social, political, cultural and economic systems somewhat in isolation from their biophysical surroundings, the environment being considered as merely a backdrop for social actions and the functioning of social systems. However, it is now widely recognised that human societies cannot be understood without analysing their interactions with the environments that supported them; as it is also widely understood that most terrestrial and near-shore environments have been and are profoundly shaped by human actions and policies.Indeed, the past five decades or so have seen the traditional nature/culture divide being increasingly challenged on the conceptual and analytical ground of various field disciplines. Along with the growing awareness of the ecological and social challenges facing society and all life on earth, the study of socio-environmental issues has become of major concern to a wide research community of both scholars and practitioners from various disciplines, so that we now refer to “environmental social sciences”.Themes and scientific questionings and approaches to explore the complex relationships between society and environment are many and call for interdisciplinary thinking. Any socioenvironmental issue – around resource perception, use, management, politics, appropriation, water access, sustainability, depletion, environmental inequalities and injustices, health and sanitation, cultural landscapes, land use and land changes, vulnerabilities to environmental hazards and changes, social construction of knowledge on the environment, and so on – can be studied from a multiplicity of angles and disciplines. Data and information can be extracted and produced from various areas and fields. Approaches are heterogeneous, qualitative and quantitative, combining localised and multi-sited research, diachronic and synchronic perspectives, and statistical, discursive or spatial analyses. There is no single methodological nor theoretical framework.This year, the objectives of the SSWSP is to expose students and young researchers to research frontiers in this field of environmental social sciences.Following the framework of the past editions, the SSWSP will be organised according to three complementary axes:

(a) Plenary sessions at the beginning of the school: three presentations will introduce different thematic and methodological research of environmental social sciences.

(b) Three thematic workshops lasting four days: issues related to social needs/experience in sanitation (workshop 1), resources appropriation (workshop 2), the use of spatial technologies as a research tool (workshop 3), will be addressed from various cross-cutting angles.

(c) Restitution, discussions, exchanges: participants of each workshop will work on a research design as a group based on the four days of training and make their presentation.

Continue reading Water and Socio-Environmental Challenges 2017

Workshop 1 : Urban ideals and Sanitation Experiences : toward a new research agenda  

Workshop 1 : Urban ideals and Sanitation Experiences : 

toward a new research agenda



  • Rémi de Bercegol

Geographer – Urbanist (CNRS, PRODIG, Paris)

Invited tutors:

  • Nathalie Jean-Baptiste

Geographer – Urbanist (Ardhi University, Dar Es Salaam; Technical University of Darmstadt)

  • Shubaghato Dasgupta

Economist (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Arkaja Singh

Lawyer (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Anju Diwedi

Anthropologist (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Ambarish Karunanith Ambar

Engineer (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Chloé Leclerc

Economist – Statistician (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon)



After declaring 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation, the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized in 2010 access to drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Sanitation is thus of growing interest to policy makers and economists and is an expending research field. To understand the complexity of sanitation challenges, social scientists usually use different type of data, which requires the mobilization of specific knowledge.

The objective of this panel is to characterize the specificities of sanitation experiences in towns and cities of the global South. It aims at developing a research agenda for analysing critically the strategies currently in place to universalize the service to all, and for apprehending the emergence of alternative models, which could also contribute to this universalization.

For this, relying on examples taken from Africa and Asia with a focus on India, we will re-read the history of sanitation models, from the western sanitary ideal of the XIX century to its segregated post-colonial effects. We will examine the cultural aspects of the taboos surrounding the sectors to explain its relegation and its societal consequences. We will critically look at centralized sanitation policies, within a broader governance framework to explain its successes and failures, and the existence of alternatives offers. Non-state actors are indeed proposing solutions to households to compensate the absence of public service, whether they be sellers of toilets, sanitary block managers or pit service providers. We will examine the reinforcement of these private and civil experiences, often informal but far from being unorganized. This will lead us to question a potential paradigm shift from a model based on conventional centralized sewer lines, towards others solutions that can be decentralized or off-grid solutions, sometimes constructed on low-cost technologies and mostly based on market logics.

What are these systems and why are they being looked at a potential solution to expand sanitation services? Who are these non-state actors implementing them? Where, and how, are they involved in the urban sanitation market? To what extent do their offers adapt to the economic conditions of households and urban dynamics in developing cities? More generally, what are the strengths and limitations of this non-public approaches? How do these initiatives contribute to the renewal of public sanitation policies?

By questioning the strengths and limitations of these systems, we wish to understand not only their contribution but also their political meaning for the expansion of a heterogeneous right to sanitation for all in an unequal city. In a final stage, we will develop a research agenda for sanitation aiming at a better articulation between public action, private sector and civil experiences. At the end of the course the students will have understood what still needs to be done in this field, as well as the limitations of survey data to study these questions and how to overcome them.

The course will combine interactive lecture sessions and tutorials over the three days. In the lecture sessions students will be exposed to the research frontier in the field of social and geographical mobility. Continue reading Workshop 1 : Urban ideals and Sanitation Experiences : toward a new research agenda  

Workshop 2 :Exclusionary Regimes and Resource Appropriation: Conceptual and Methodological dynamics  

Workshop 2: Exclusionary Regimes and Resource Appropriation:

Conceptual and Methodological dynamics



  • Thanuja Mummidi

Anthropologist (Pondicherry University, Puducherry)

Invited Tutors:

  • Felix Padel

Anthropologist (Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex)

  • Sangeeta Dasgupta

Historian (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi )

  • Raphael Mathevet

Geographer (French Institute of Pondicherry, Puducherry)

  • Jayaprakash P Rao

Sociologist (Osmania University, Hyderabad)



The workshop focuses on natural resources and its spaces like the exclusionary regime (Li, 2007) but with an agenda to understand the politics of its appropriation. In this focus, the workshop will look at the indigenous populations or more specifically the scheduled tribes of India in tracing the different articulations for appropriation and thus framing the exclusionary regime. Capitalist dispossessions (nexus of the state-corporations-market) of primary resources as in land, forest and water have continued both in colonial and independent India. However, the long rhetoric of independent India for dispossession has been for the benevolence of this population under the umbrella of development. Though environmental advocacy has given leverage in resisting dispossession, the appropriation of practices of sustainability and biodiversity by the regime through articulations of ‘voluntary biodiversity off-sets’ and prefixing ‘green’ to all capitalist dispossessions have diluted this advocacy potential for the STs. The onus to counter to such articulations has long been left to the people, the voices of the dispossessed.

The workshop will explore the methodological potential in understanding the voices of the dispossessed through the framework of ‘cultural politics’ and ‘reverse anthropology’.

The workshop intends to facilitate research of young scholars working on this broad theme through the following sequence for the first two and a half days: highlighting the overlap of scheduled tribe spaces and natural resources; Framing the Exclusionary Regime;Tracing articulations of appropriation and counter articulations of the dispossessed; Theoretical frames and methodological challenges: discussing political economy, political ecology, cultural politics and reverse anthropology.The second half of day three will attempt to initiate the group into a simulated research thinking over a specific research design as an outcome of the series of lectures. The concluding Day 4 is devoted to Group Work Restitution, sharing workshop experience and results. Continue reading Workshop 2 :Exclusionary Regimes and Resource Appropriation: Conceptual and Methodological dynamics  

Workshop 3 : Tackling Socio-environmental Issues: Stakes and Potentials of Using Geospatial Technologies  

Workshop 3 : Tackling Socio-environmental Issues:

Stakes and Potentials of Using Geospatial Technologies



  • Anne Casile

Archaeologist (IRD, PaLoc, Paris; IFP, Pondicherry)

  • Rémy Delage

Geographer (CNRS, Center for South Asian Studies, Paris)

Invited tutors:

  • Stéphanie Duvail

Geographer (IRD, PaLoc, Paris)

  • Vincent Herbreteau

Geographer (IRD, ESPACE-DEV, Paris)

  • Olivier Telle

Geographer (CNRS, Géographies-Cités, Paris)

  • Shanti Pappu 

Archaeologist ( SCHE, Chennai)

  • Kumar Akhilesh

Archaeologist ( SCHE, Chennai)



Advances in spatial technologies and spatial data infrastructures/services, and the development of digital globe browser – such as Google Earth from 2005 onwards – have been major factors in raising awareness and interest toward critical spatial and interdisciplinary thinking in many research fields. In the humanities and social sciences, the integration and spatial analysis of geographically referenced information into scientific conceptual frameworks has gained momentum over the past 10 years with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – a computer-based technology allowing to handle and analyse spatial data – and satellite imagery freely accessible through the internet.

In recent years, the flow of information from a host of sensors has grown exponentially. Providing with a discovery, descriptive and analytical tool, the incorporation and manipulation of remotely sensed data into a GIS offer great potentials for research to document the human, natural and built system components of the earth, and to explore the complex interfaces and interactions between society and the environment in relation to a number of issues: resource management strategies and impacts, social vulnerabilities in the face of hydroclimate risks/variability/disasters, water accessibility and sustainability, water depletion, land cover and land use changes, the impacts of human activities on earth, of changing water resources on agro-ecological production systems, settlement dynamics, and so on.

Today GIS and software for image processing, pattern recognition, and scientific visualisation are in widespread use through many disciplines, especially in the environment and health related research domains, and in applied science. Yet, it appears that most students and scholars from social sciences and humanities do not know what GIS is and can do, how it can be used, what types of data can be extracted from and analysed through remotely sensed images.

The objective of this workshop is to focus on the use, potentials and limits of spatial technologies for research in the social sciences and humanities concerned with issues at the interface between water, society and environment. Highlighted with case studies taken from various disciplines, it will provide a broad introduction to basics and principles of GIS and remote sensing. The workshop is opened to students from all disciplines, who are interested in spatial analysis and willing to implement GIS, spatial technologies and approaches in their research project. The practical work will make use of free software and satellite images.

Continue reading Workshop 3 : Tackling Socio-environmental Issues: Stakes and Potentials of Using Geospatial Technologies