I developed different research themes bringing together Science and Technology Studies, political sociology, sociology of emotions and environmental sociology. In particular, I studied two techno-scientific notions which are at the heart of debates on the adaptation and transition of societies:
Ecosystem services, designating the benefits brought by the functioning of ecosystems to human societies;
Biodiversity offsetting, proposing to compensate the destruction of natural areas with supposedly equivalent gains.
My research has been conducted in interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in social and natural sciences, as well as in transdisciplinary collaborations with nature managers. It follows a common thread: the analysis of (individual and collective) emotions as the products of power relations and as devices of government.
1. Governance of research and transformation of knowledge production
In my PhD, I studied how the notion of ecosystem services transformed ecological sciences by emphasising the attention paid to the state of ecosystems and their interactions with human societies, and by promoting the use of modeling and spatialization techniques, particularly in Sandra Lavorel's laboratory. I analysed how the subjectivities of ecologists were governed to organise interdisciplinary collaborations and produce relevant knowledge for society. At an institutional level, I showed how researchers were governed by different mechanisms (calls for tender, European and national institutions) to adopt the notion of ecosystem services (Brunet et al., 2019).
In my second postdoc at the MCTS TUM, I am currently pursuing the study of the transformation of research fields by European research governance. Drawing on the case of the European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, I analyse the consequences of the changing conditions of research on reviewers’ working and evaluation practices, and their epistemic implications.
2. Communication of science and operationalization of knowledge
In collaboration with researchers working on ecosystem services, I studied various devices (scenarios, games, cards) used to communicate ecosystem services to nature managers and decision-makers. I participated in the application of some of these devices and analysed what they performed in practice (Brunet et al., 2018; Crouzat et al., 2018).
In my first postdoc in Finland, I co-developed a game on biodiversity offsetting in discussion with the main French and Finnish actors involved in biodiversity offsetting. This game presents different modalities to organise biodiversity offsetting and shows the power relationships between various actors involved in its implementation (Nygren et al., 2019).
3. Nature conservation policies
In my thesis, I analyzed how the notion of ecosystem services transformed the conservation of nature in two types of areas. In national parks, the valuation of ecosystem services supports a reorientation of conservation policies and redefines the role of the state. By contrast, urban nature is governed as infrastructures belonging to larger urban ecosystems (Brunet, 2017).
I continued this research with the study of the first French biodiversity offsetting bank and the work of the team of restoration ecologist Thierry Dutoit. By analysing the surprises of ecologists, I showed that the outcome of restoration actions remained uncertain and weakened the possibility of real biodiversity offsetting (Brunet, 2020a).
4. Sociology of emotions and sociological methods to study emotions
Inspired by feminist studies of science, I analyzed emotions as objects of power and devices of government which permeate the practices of knowledge production, communication and nature conservation. I explained how the notion of ecosystem services has exercised a power of seduction and has been made attractive by research institutions. I detailed how communication tools work emotionally through fun and hope. I presented how scientists actively work on their emotions and those of others to facilitate the implementation of conservation policies.
This has resulted in a study of various emotions: excitement in research governance (Brunet et al., 2019), ecological anxiety among ecologists (Brunet, 2020b), hope of a reconciliation between humans and nature in urban areas (Brunet, 2017), surprises in the implementation of biodiversity offsetting policies (Brunet, 2020a), and shame in plane travel (Brunet, 2021).
To study emotions, I used methods from the sociology of emotions (interview, observation, ethnography, document analysis, archive analysis, video of focus groups, messages posted on social networks). Instead of claiming that there would be a single proper method to study emotions, I used methods adapted to various situations and responding to different analytical goals, to understand how emotions: form collective affective conditions, are the object-target of power, are actively regulated and are performed for specific purposes.