Overview of the CESSMA

The CESSMA – Centre d’études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques (Centre for social sciences studies on the African, American and Asian worlds) – is a joint research unit. It was created in 2014 under the triple tutelage of : the University Paris Diderot, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) (National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations) and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) (the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development).

On 1 January 2018, the Centre comprised 56 academics and research fellows, and 80 doctoral students.

1. The originality of the Centre’s scientific project
The Centre was created with the aim to analyse the historical and spatial configurations of the dynamics of development and globalisation in the so-called countries of the “South”. One of the key components of the project is a questioning of Worlds, the diversity, universality, or on the contrary, the specificity of development issues and the effects of globalisation. They are viewed as processes that are not only governed by economic logic but fully include its social, cultural and political aspects, and are hence historically constructed and situated processes.
The Centre capitalizes on its dual legacy of development studies (for researchers from the IRD and the former SEDET) and the tradition of area studies (INALCO).

The Centre’s founding principles are :

  • Interdisciplinarity. The following social science disciplines are represented : history, geography, anthropology, sociology, economics, urban studies and political science.
Frequentation of four regional areas : the Africas, the Americas, the Maghreb and the Middle East, and the Asian worlds. All the researchers assiduously conduct fieldwork in the countries they are working on, speak the languages spoken in those countries, and dialogue with their scientific communities (including in the form of joint publications).
Comparitism. Scientific life is organized around four transversal thematic axes : 1) Norms, circulations, actors ; 2) Urban production, policies and practices ; 3) Work, finance and globalization ; 4) Construction and usage of knowledge. The CESSMA conducts interdisciplinary research programmes, which are deployed in a comparative manner throughout the countries of the South.

    The CESSMA is the only research Centre in France to simultaneously :
  • be clearly focused on development studies (the Global South) ;

  • adopt a generalist approach in terms of its research themes ;
  • associate international comparative research programmes with thorough area studies ;
  • adopt an interdisciplinary approach, in particular by associating history with research on the present.