Julien Wacquez: Research & CV

The Grammar of Likelihood: The Attachement to Reality of Sci-Fi Practitioners

Research Area 1 – Displacements, “Dépaysements” and Discrepancies: People, Knowledge and Practices

Contact: julien.wacquez@cefres.cz

My PhD deals with our ways of understanding the affinities between science-fiction narratives and scientific activity. Some of such narratives tend to pose problems that need to be solved by scientific activity and that researchers, in some disciplinary fields, actually recourse to sci-fi to produce knowledge or to elaborate new working hypothesis. I am therefore interested in the way sci-fi narratives fill in scientists.

My PhD relies on various field works I have conducted among both scientists and sci-fi professionals (writers, publishers, critics) to understand what writing techniques and assessment criteria are deemed to be relevant, as well as the ways to translate scientific concepts into fiction ideas and fiction ideas into research hypothesis.

In this work, the notion of likelihood turns out to be a major differenciating operator. Even though sci-fi narratives mention a priori impossible phenomena, the pleasure of reading arises when such phenomena seem likely (“it may be”, “what if”). Only when passing the test of likelihood can a sci-fi narrative convince researchers of the relevance of its usability in a scientific investigation. Such test also enables—at least in part—to categorize narratives according to various sci-fi subgenres (such as hard science, cyberpunk, space opera, social science fiction, or slipstream and so forth).

In Prague I will deal with the way the various subgenres of Czech sci-fi have managed to cross US and French borders. It seems that the various conceptions of likelihood which can be identified in such subgenres do not meet with the same success from one country to the other. My aim is to lead a comparative study of three national contexts and of the ways these various forms of likelihood are expressed, assessed and exchanged. What are the strategies, methods, translation networks linking these three countries? Why do sci-fi actors from these three countries succeed in or fail to translate or have translated their texts? Why do some subgenres prevail here rather than there? What conception of likelihood is required from a sci-fi narrative to be able to cross such or such border?



2012— : PhD studies in Sociology at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris) under the supervision of Jean-Louis Fabiani. Thesis title: La Grammaire de la Vraisemblance : l’attachement à la réalité des praticiens de la science-fiction. Disciplines: Sociology of knowledge, sociology of sciences, sociology of writing, sociology of literature, ethnomethodology

2009-2011: MA in Sociology at EHESS under the supervision of Sylvie Tissot. Thesis title: Faire la mixité sociale dans le grand ensemble de Meaux : la constitution d’un problème public. 

Grands & Fellowships

2015-2016: Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, under the supervision of Michèle Lamont

2014-2015: Grant « Immersion », Labex Créations, Arts et Patrimoine & Musée of quai Branly Museum, under the supervision of Frédéric Keck. Research topic: La dimension narrative du projet “Cultural Urban Learning Transmedia Experience”

Teaching Experience

  • 2014-2017—Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle University. “The Sociology of Writing”.
  • 2013-2014–Paris 12 University. “Introduction to Sociology”.
  • 2013-2014: Paris 13 University & Institut Régional du Travail Social. “Introduction to Sociology”.

Selected Papers

  • 2016: « Comment la science-fiction affecte-t-elle l’activité scientifique ? L’intervention de la sphère de Dyson dans une controverse en astrophysique autour de l’étoile KIC 8462852 » – International conference Stella Incognita, Bordeaux University
  • 2016: « Elements for a Sociology of Credibility: How to Use Knowledge in Science Fiction Stories? » – Culture and Social Analysis Workshop, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
  • 2015: « Faire dire aux objets. Images de l’activité connaissante et mise en scène dialogique du savoir par le service de la médiation culturelle du musée du quai Branly » – Workshop Art et performance – Musée du quai Branly (Paris, France)
  • 2014: « ‘C’est pas ça le futur’ : œuvre de science-fiction vécue par un comité éditorial » – Workshop Comment augmenter nos réalités ? – Musée du quai Branly (Paris, France)


  • Forthcoming: « Faire exister la sphère de Dyson » (work title), in Gradhiva, « Un Monde peut en cacher un autre », Emmanuel Grimaud & Pierre Déléage (eds.), 2018.
  • Forthcoming: « L’Écrire vrai dans les sciences sociales » (work title), in Zilsel, no. 4, March 2018.

Other Activities

2016: Founder and editor-in-chief of the bilingual magazine Blind SpotAngle Mort. The magazine aims at publishing unpublished sci-fi texts from writers and researchers on transversal topics so to better understand the ways sci-fi narratives make us reappraise knowledge production through fiction. The magazine is supervised by a scientific committee and a reading committee comprised with experts on sci-fi, bibliographers, writers, publishers and translators.

  • Scientific Committee: Peter Galison (Harvard University), Stefan Helmreich (MIT), José Halloy (Paris Diderot), Roger Malina (UT Dallas), Pierre Lagrange (EHESS), Cyprien Tasset (EHESS), Marika Moïsseeff (Collège de France)
  • Reading Committee: Patrick Creusot, Sheryl Curtis, Sylvie Denis, René-Marc Dolhen, Edward Gauvin, Fleur Hopkins, Georges Subrenat, Julien Wacquez.