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Des poissons, des hommes et des rivières. Sociologie d'un problème de pollution en Franche-Comté

Abstract : Between 2009 and 2015, several rivers in the Doubs department were the scene of episodes of fish mortality. While, due to the sensitivity of fish to variations in water quality and climatic hazards, the first manifestations of this phenomenon were considered "normal" by some professionals in aquatic environments, the observations made during its repetition led many actors to recognize the disturbing nature of the situation. Summarizing the uncertainties and concerns about the sustainability of fishing practices and potential health risks in particular, this phenomenon has most often been explained by "river pollution". However, it appeared that such a qualification is insufficient because it "covers" under a single term the attempts at solutions put in place by the actors. This is why the challenge of this thesis is to discard the notion of "pollution" in order to better understand how they respond to the phenomenon of fish mortality. To this end, my work is based on a study of the grey literature produced on the situation, on the observation of the practices and interactions of heterogeneous actors with different or sometimes contradictory interests (fishermen, environmental advocates, officials of State and local authorities, farmers, experts, etc.), as well as on a series of interviews conducted with the latter. Developing an analysis of their practices and discourses, it proposes an examination of ways of understanding the phenomenon of fish mortality, as well as the measures devised and/or implemented to control it. Based on this empirical foundation, I thus intend to demonstrate that pollution is not an entity already present, waiting to be discovered, denounced for its action in order to be controlled, but a "political" solution to a problem faced in a dispersed order and in sometimes conflicting relationships by actors forced to engage in the resolution of a disorder in order to preserve their interests. In this sense, it is a means of delimiting a diplomatic contour in an attempt to contain a disorder. In this perspective, I analyse the conduct of different investigations through which they mobilise different resources not only to try to understand the causes of fish mortality episodes but also and above all, to control them in order to prevent their return and restore share prices. It then appears that the complexity of this phenomenon, the diversity of the issues it covers and its geographical size exceed the unique capacity for resolution that is specific to each group (environmental associations, representative structures of the agricultural world, local authorities, public authorities, etc.) and require a collective but always uncertain activity to define the problem and its solutions. Putting this work in a socio-anthropological perspective, I also show that, beyond the search for causes, these investigations carry with them the risk of mutual denunciation and the attribution of responsibilities relating to the degradation of the quality of watercourses. From this point of view, I observe that if river advocates engage in a logic of accusations of agricultural activities and sanitation management leading to the opening of a conflict situation, experts mandated by government representatives conclude that the phenomenon is multifactorial and leads to a dilution of responsibilities. The situation then remains partly undetermined and the explanation by "river pollution" becomes a political solution, or even a "diplomatic tool" for a collective problem that is difficult to make sense of.
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Simon Calla. Des poissons, des hommes et des rivières. Sociologie d'un problème de pollution en Franche-Comté. Sociologie. Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté, 2019. Français. ⟨tel-02486536⟩

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