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Julien Scheepers

Julien Scheepers (PhD in sociology at Urmis) works at IESTS Nice as former and researcher.

Title of PhD dissertation : Ethnicization and racization of social ties and social relations in the workplace : comparative case studies in social work and private security

Research areas :

- Sociology of labour and professions
- Sociology of interethnic relations
- Discrimination

Presentation of the research project :

The thesis aims to put the logic, conventions and issues relating to the ethnicisation of recruiting into perspective, i.e. the consideration of applicants’ ethnic origins in two employment sectors : social work and private security. In fact, these two sectors share a common theme of confronting professionals with a population considered as difficult, even potentially dangerous for society, and itself in the image of the “youth from the estates”, often viewed through the ethnic origins attributed to it. Consequently, recruiting professionals who seem to share a common ethnic or cultural background with the people they deal with seems a suitable response and a guarantee of effectiveness.

However, and this is what justifies the comparative approach, while these two sectors are similar on the hypothesis according to which exchanges with the public are facilitated by a supposed shared “background”, as it predisposes the protagonists to identify each other as “similar” during interaction, they differ on several points.
Indeed, social workers convey educational and integration assignments within society ; these are institutional officers vested with a public service assignment ; finally, they perform their job within a professional environment which is historically constituted around promoting an exclusive professional identity, acting as a tool for internal cohesion and a strong requirement for reflexivity in practice, based on social sciences. As for private security officers, they practice roles that involve monitoring and pacification ; their professional environment is at the heart of the market sector since security companies are the service providers involved in a competitive market where the requirement in terms of effective results prevails ; finally this job is, to a very large extent, performed by unqualified workers, often without degrees and unlike social work does not have internal regulatory bodies.

In order to test the hypothesis according to which these differences will affect the logics, conventions and issues of the processes of ethnicisation at work in each sector, we will conduct a field study, focused initially on the actors who are in direct contact with difficult populations and who are likely to have recruited people who supposedly belong to them. What is the point of view of these actors on the use of social, cultural or ethnic proximity in both recruiting and professional practices ? Do these actors demonstrate the social, cultural and ethnic proximity which is supposed to connect them to their users or clients ? If this is the case, in what situations and with what aims ?

On the other hand, we are also proposing to take an interest in actors in charge of recruitment. The purpose of this particular interest in these actors is to clarify the manner in which the consideration of professionals’ ethnic origins is justified. In this sense, the comparative analysis attempts to show the contextual and organisational issues involved in these professions. In fact, the two sectors do not have the same reasoning. The sectors appropriate to social workers, even if they are for the most part managed by associations, generally involve public service assignments focused on public interest research. This affiliation connects them with a professional ethic, an “educational ideal” traditionally related to values such as social cohesion and social mixing, which can sometimes lead to tension with an assignment of monitoring and standardisation of behaviours which cannot be discharged by the practices of specialist education. In parallel, the jobs of private security officers fall within the market sector and, although their primary assignment is the protection of goods, also inherit an assignment of social pacification in public areas which make up the market areas where they work. So, is proximity management experienced exclusively in terms of effectiveness, without resorting to ethical conventions ?

These questions will lead us to develop a study of the professional environments that interest us in the research. This study of the professions will attempt to highlight the different organisational systems, professional cultures and characteristics that form them. We are therefore making the hypothesis that the frameworks that govern each of these sectors are formative elements of the ethnicisation process, both from the point of view of its organisation and regulation and in terms of professional practices such as they use on a daily basis.
From different normative frameworks, these jobs and professions provide a function of monitoring and social regulation in a society where immigration and insecurity tend to be associated. For this reason, studying the reasoning that justifies the ethnicisation of recruitment in these two sectors, the forms that they take, the issues that they raise and also a way of providing a contribution to the understanding of the dynamics through which the place of immigration and the populations associated with it are constructed in modern France.