Societies in the tropical and Mediterranean regions


The Societies and Globalisation department’s main objective is to understand contemporary societies in the tropical and Mediterranean regions while analysing the dynamics, transformations, adaptations and resistances that underlie and drive them. The research conducted takes an interdisciplinary approach to social challenges, with the aim of demonstrating their implications and relevance for countries in both the South and the North. The various research programmes strive to understand the dynamics at work in the diverse array of societies. They all have in-depth knowledge of the field and apply their approach at several levels.

They can be divided into eight main subject areas:

Anthropology, economics, geography, demography and sociology are the main disciplines represented. The department also includes archaeologists, historians, legal experts, urban planners, political scientists, statisticians and linguists, as well as several environment and life science researchers (agronomy, ecology, pedology, hydrology, health, remote sensing, modelling and geomatics).

Key figures

Flagship scientific projects

Odyssea: Observatory of the dynamics of interactions between societies and environment in the Amazon

Coordinated by the UMR Espace-Dev unit, the European Odyssea project comprises a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector European and Brazilian team of international repute. Its goal is to build a ground-breaking multi- and cross-disciplinary observatory to audit and assess interactions between Amazonian societies and their environments.

Twenty years observing Madagascar’s countryside

In Madagascar, the Rural Observatories were first set up in 1995 as part of the MADIO (Madagascar-Dial-Instat-Orstom) project. A colloquium was organized to mark the 20th anniversary of Madagascar’s Rural Observatories on the 9-10 November 2016 in Antananarivo.

The WIODER project

The WIODER (Western Indian Ocean Delta Exchange and Research network) project, jointly financed by CRDI (Centre de Recherche pour le Développement International, Canada) and IRD, was set up to structure a research network working on the present-day evolution of deltas in the Indian Ocean.

The "Governance and emergence of research into human sciences in Cambodia" ERASMUS project

Launched in October 2016 and coordinated by Inalco (national institute for oriental languages and civilisations), this three-year project aims to develop and structure a social sciences research and innovation policy in Cambodia.

  • 4 new ICL (international combined laboratories)

    An additional four international combined laboratories for human and social sciences were opened in 2016: EtatRar, MAcoTer, MOVIDA and SAGEMM.

  • 5 new JEAI (young researcher teams affiliated with IRD)

    There were five new teams of young researchers affiliated with IRD: AMSAMA, ANTROPOCUBA, FRES, GITES and RESOFEN

  • Cosmopolitical Africas

    Research teams CESSMA, PRODIG, URMIS, Dev & Soc, LLACAN (with backing from African Studies scientific interest group, CNRS, and IRD) organised the fourth African Studies event to be held in France, this year on the theme: "Cosmopolitical Africas".

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  • Support for several summer schools

    A high number of summer schools received backing from the department, including the ‘Tam Dao days’ in Vietnam, the southern hemisphere winter university on social sciences in Madagascar ("TamDao Mada") and the Colloquium on Mathematical and Computer Modelling of Complex Systems (COMMISCO'2016).

And in the future ?

IRD and Inserm are partners of the Innovative SHS 2017 show to be held in Marseille on 17-18 May 2017. Organised by INSHS, this event will put the spotlight on the diversity of knowledge to promote the human and social science teams and will demonstrate these teams’ ability to meet the expectations of civil society. This will be the third event of its kind. It has international reach and puts special focus on health. Six projects backed by IRD research teams will be presented.

More broadly speaking, through dedicated cross-disciplinary seminal projects (PSI), this year IRD will give special attention to questions on urban dynamics and their link with sustainable development. We will also look at population migrations, mobilities and circulations.

IRD will also contribute to work aimed at measuring progress with and assessing SDGs, plus work on the vulnerability of territories and human groups and individuals faced with changes in socio-ecosystems.