Antoine Hennion entered the CSI in 1974 as a student trainee, after a master done on the record industry at the École des Mines. Having a PhD in sociology at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (1991), and a training in musicology (Paris IV-Sorbonne), he turned to sociology of culture and innovation. A tenured researcher at the CSI since 1978, he participated in the growth of the ANT (Actor-Network Theory), and directed the centre from 1994 to 2002. He has extensively published in the sociology of culture, on the cultural industries, advertising and design, services and users. Drawing in particular on music – a performing art relying on a variety of heterogeneous mediations (instruments, bodies, scores, stages, medias, recordings…) – he developed a problematization of mediation crossing cultural sociology and STS (Science & Technology Studies). With J.-M. Fauquet, a musicologist at the CNRS, he also undertook a historical research on the development of the taste for classical music, from the case of Bach in nineteenth century France.
He is now developing a pragmatist approach to diverse forms of attachment, ranging from taste for various objects and practices (music, wine, sports), to issues about care, aging, and disability. A study done with G. Teil on amateurs demonstrated taste as a reflexive activity, co-producing not only the tasters’ capacity, but also the enhancement of the object tasted, and sometimes, when a milieu forms to support this progressive institution, its inscription in history. Inquiries on homecare undertaken with P.-A. Vidal-Naquet led to the development of the notion of a situational ethics. The comparison between caregivers and amateurs has proven to be very fruitful. Both share with an art of paying attention, a mastery of instruments and techniques, a sense of the right gesture and of a controlled involvement. Rather than objects of studies, amateurs and carers may be considered as teachers in pragmatism: confronted with demanding situations, each in their own way both face a work to be done.
In line with those issues, Antoine Hennion now develops a pragmatics of attachments within a collective that he coordinates. Young researchers working on various sensitive cases (rare disease, palliative care, dependency, migrations, urban suburbs …) gather to discuss problems of method and commitment raised by the concrete implementation of pragmatist inquiries in social science. This presently leads him to address new, pressing issues, more political, concerning in particular past and present migrants. The alternative hospitality/rejection may be more accurately reformulated in terms of attachments: we only know what we are when confronted with the other. Rather than reacting in hurry by measures of withdrawal and containment, at the local or at the national and European levels, the present situation could be an opportunity for reassessing what we stand for and value most, and conversely for collectively realising what makes us hold up.
* According summaries present in the bibliographic database