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Maïa Fansten

Sociologist, Lecturer, Université Paris Cité

Contact: maia.fansten(at)




In continuity with my earlier work on French psychoanalysis, I am pursuing a line of thought in the sociology of mental health by examining norms, the processes of qualifying and appropriating disorders, the pathways undergoing diagnosis or diagnostic wandering from the point of view of the people concerned and their relatives, professional practices, and the configurations of actors and institutions. I am particularly interested in the way in which 'disorders' are experienced, expressed and inscribed in individual and family histories, and in the way in which the notion of psychological suffering impacts on the perception and treatment of social problems.

For a number of years now, my research interests have focused on subjects whose identification and characterisation are the subject of debate, between social problems and mental health issues, between 'psychology' approaches and social science analyses.

This is the case with the phenomenon known as 'hikikomori': these new forms of social withdrawal by young people, who become disengaged and reclusive for several months or years at a time. As part of a collective interdisciplinary project, based on the exemplary case of the 'hikikomori' in Japan, we have taken a comparative look at the way in which 'social withdrawers' are perceived, named and cared for in France, Japan and Italy, and sought to understand the collective dynamics that come into play and trigger reflections on the family, school, care, digital technologies and the construction of the self in the age of autonomy.

I am also taking part in a collective study on children considered to be restless, focusing on the lives of children designated as restless and/or inattentive and their families. It seeks to reconstruct the complex dynamics linking territories, families, the worlds of care and school in a variety of cultural, intellectual, institutional and political contexts (France, Chile, Brazil).

In both cases, the approach is comparative and multidisciplinary, bringing together sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. With this in mind, I am involved in the international nonconformes network. As well as continuing these collaborations in new areas (the question of gender in the disorders of children and young people, for example), I am currently developing a new research project on eco-anxiety, the success of this term and its social uses. The aim is both to examine the social place of an emotion that has suddenly become particularly visible, by studying the way in which this category is mobilised in the public arena and in scientific discussion; and also to shed light on the meanings, experiences and uses of this qualification by investigating young people who say they are eco-anxious and those around them (siblings, parents, grandparents), thus examining the social variations in the appropriation, use and effects of eco-anxiety.

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