Regional fields


Thematic fields

Internationalisation and universalisation in Japan, conception of contemporary cosmologies, anthropology of artistic creation and scientific and technical innovation, digital culture


innovation, design, architecture, digital, technology, science

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Tokyo, 2003 (cliché S. Houdart)

At the time of her PhD thesis – an ethnographic study of a biological laboratory in Japan (2000) and its development – Sophie Houdart focused on internationalisation/universalization phenomena and new forms of nature institutionalisation in Japan. Taking as her empirical framework the preparation and unfolding of the most recent world exposition to take place in Japan in 2005, which took as its theme the rediscovery of “nature’s wisdom”, she studied the formation of what can be likened to a cosmological system with vague universalising desires. Since this system contributes to the dynamics of the modern world and is involved in an international network of production and communication, it proposes an order that applies to the world. Like modern Western cosmology, which produced – in the course of its (particularly scientific) history – true universality-generating machines, the study of Expo 2005 supplied an opportunity to observe the rhetorical, practical implementation of this type of alternative machine.

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Tokyo, 2003 (cliché S. Houdart)

Since 2003, this study has provided her with an opportunity to make contact with others working in this universal format, especially architects. In parallel with the world exposition, Sophie Houdart undertook an ethnographical study of a Tokyo architectural studio. Describing architectural practices in project situations, she focused on material, technical, social and cultural supports that accompany the design process.

During this new study, she was particularly interested in digital design practices. She started a project on digital material in 2008, and in 2009 began a new field study on “art media” in Japan. Her interest in this new subject and her shift from the constitution of the very large (a universal) to the construction and manipulation of the quite small (the pixel) has today led her to consider the importance of scale in anthropological dynamics. In 2011, as part of a collective project on changes of scale and knowledge practices, she conducted a study on the large particle collider (LHC) at the CERN.

Recent publications

  • 2013, Utopies universalistes: la nature en concurrence, Terrain, 60: 92–107 [special issue: V. Manceron and M. Roué (eds), L’imaginaire écologique].
  • 2013, L’universel à vue d’œil (Paris, Éd. Petra) [Anthropologiques].
  • 2011 eds (with O. Thierry), Humains, non-humains. Comment repeupler les sciences sociales (Paris, La Découverte).
  • 2010 (with S. Camelin), L’ethnologie (Paris, PUF) [Que sais-je?].
  • 2009 (with C. Minato), Kuma Kengo. Une monographie décalée (Paris, Éditions Donner Lieu) [english version Kuma Kengo. An unconventional Monograph].
  • 2008, La cour des miracles. Ethnologie d’un laboratoire japonais (Paris, CNRS Éditions).
  • 2008, Copying, cutting and pasting social spheres: Computer designers’ participation in architectural projects, Science Studies, 21 (1): 47–63 [special issue: Understanding architecture, accounting society].


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


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Mis à jour le 18 October 2016

Directeur de recherche, CNRS
[Research Professor CNRS]


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