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Ceped scientific project

“Populations and development”: our research guidelines

Ceped research is basically devoted to the relations between populations and development, seen from three angles: (1) relations of populations to development; (2) relations of development processes to the composition, practices, and organization of populations; (3) impact of demographic structures and dynamics on development. The broader context consists of the social, economic, and political changes linked to “globalization” processes and characteristic of what are referred to as “Southern” or “developing” countries and their relations with one another and with the Global North.

Our special focus is on three processes triggered by “globalization”: (1) a new division of spaces, systems, and markets; (2) the often-steep rise in inequalities between and within Global South countries; (3) transformations of social systems. These three major processes are research themes common to all Ceped teams.

(1) Exchange systems between and within Nation-States and, at the broader level, of the “world economy” are being reshaped and in some cases even dislocated. These changes are transforming and opening up certain social spaces in education and health, but also in terms of settlement areas. As new modes of personal travel are adopted, itineraries diversify and locations can now serve multiple purposes—for example, emigration, immigration, and transit hubs. However, the expansion of social and economic exchanges can also cause a gradual “blurring” of frontiers between developing and industrialized countries. The formation and consolidation of transnational networks that cross not only national borders but also symbolic, cultural, and linguistic borders therefore warrant an examination of the social uses of the goods and resources in circulation. In terms of development dynamics, these changes focus attention on the transformation of spaces and borders between Global North and Global South, between developing countries, and, more generally, on the relations between the Global North and South and between developing countries.

Development has traditionally been associated with “Southern” countries, and vice versa. However, many countries that do not belong to that category—such as the former Soviet bloc countries —should be included in the scope of the analysis of development. At the same time, many countries classified as “Southern” display models and levels of development that qualify them as “emerging” countries. Examples can be found in Latin America and Asia. The relations between the “developing” and “Southern” countries therefore deserve to be analyzed, as do—more broadly—the boundaries of “developing” zones. We have defIned our three research areas and cross-sectional projects to allow comparative research on these topics.

(2) New international divisions and modes of circulation generated by globalization often entail a fragmentation of social groups or the emergence of new categories—particularly elites—as a result of an unequal distribution of the capital needed to control the production and circulation of new knowledge and resources. To what extent do these geographic divisions and modes of circulation affect the ability of populations to adapt their responses to social, economic, and cultural change, and their strategies to cope with the growing inequality of access to resources? To what extent do these processes make populations more vulnerable and, beyond that, undermine social cohesion and development conditions? This second series of questions forms a second line of investigation in our five-year project.

(3) The dynamics at work in the circulation of individuals and norms, as well of goods and capital, and in the division of spaces and fields, offer special opportunities for observing the plasticity of social systems and their variable capacity to adjust to all kinds of change (particularly in education, health, and migration). We can also observe discontinuities and transformations in the ? relations between population groups, between Nation-States, and between globalization stakeholders such as international organizations. Local, national, and international politics are another facet of the study of these dynamics and transformations, as well as of the opposing but concurrent mechanisms that characterize globalization: convergence and fragmentation. This dimension forms the third line of research common to the four Ceped areas.
Research at Ceped examines in a systemic way the ties with development, not only among populations but also in institutions, in education, health, legal and political control systems, in “solidarity” systems, and so on. To that end, two general issues are raised through the programs of the four research teams: (1) To what extent do globalization-related processes affect the composition, organization, and practices of populations? (2) To what extent should we view these processes as the product of the composition, organization, and practices of populations in their relationships with the “objects” of development—such as education, health —and the norms that govern development?

Ceped research project draws on the concepts and theoretical corpus of demography. It also taps the theoretical resources of sociology, anthropology, economics, geography, and political science to revisit population issues and, beyond, the phenomena and processes that characterize development, viewed as a single or multiple mechanism. The analytical framework of the research comprises two complementary levels. At the micro level, to the purpose is to understand demographic and social phenomena from the standpoint of groups and individuals (resources, trajectories, relationships to knowledge, education, the State, healthcare systems, and so on). At the macro level, research focuses on the socio-political contexts and the power plays in which individuals, groups, and populations are involved and that largely determine their practices. The contextualization of issues—such as migration, health or education—is essential to the understanding of the “developing” countries.

The research programs of Ceped teams seek to broaden our understanding of social phenomena and populations through analysis at these two levels. In addition, research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. In the survey conducted and the analysis methods adopted, research at Ceped studies populations in a wide variety of regions not just as demographic entities, but also as socio-economic?, anthropological, linguistic, and sociological entities. Multidisciplinarity is a guiding thread throughout research at Ceped. Its goal is to open the way for cross-analyses of data and corpuses. It also forms the bedrock of the comparative method, a key to the study of social facts.

One of the specific features of Ceped is to give priority to a population-centered approach. However, by applying multiple perspectives and scientific approaches, which take into account the interactions between demographic, social, economic, political, and anthropological factors, we arrive at a fresh analysis of the issue—indeed, the very notion—of “development”.