The Regime of Invisibility in Closed Spaces of Debate

How and Why Shale Gas Was Perceived as a Non-Problem for Almost a Year in France

in Nature and Culture
Author:
Sébastien Chailleux Center Emilie Durkheim, UMR TREE, Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour s.chailleux@sciencespobordeaux.fr

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Philippe Zittoun LAET-ENTPE, University of Lyon, France pzittoun@gmail.com

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Abstract

Our empirical study tackles the definition of shale gas within the French administration and gas companies before social mobilization erupted in 2011. We analyze how and why shale gas was neither considered problematic nor perceived as part of the political agenda, even though it was the object of policymaking. We argue that shale gas was caught up in a regime of invisibility shaped by the actors in charge of dealing with license requests. Invisibility was made possible by the administration's cadastral department, which considered itself as the sole expert in granting licenses, and because of the department's marginal position within the administration, which rendered shale gas proponents invisible to their own hierarchy. This regime of invisibility helped define shale gas as a “non-problem.”

Contributor Notes

Sébastien Chailleux, a Political Scientist and Sociologist, is Assistant Professor (Maître de Conférences) at Center Emilie Durkheim, Sciences Po Bordeaux and associate researcher at UMR TREE, Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour. Specialist of the subsurface industries and the energy transition, Sébastien has worked on hydrocarbons, geological carbon storage and mining in France. He analyzes the trajectories of industrial transition projects, the evolution of public energy policies and the governance of natural resources. ORCID: 0000-0003-4664-3741 Email: s.chailleux@sciencespobordeaux.fr

Philippe Zittoun is Research Director in Political Science at LAET-ENTPE, University of Lyon, Secretary General of the International Public Policy Association, and head of the International Public Policy Association's “Administration and Public Policy” research committee. He is also co-editor with Guy Peters of the “International Series on Public Policy” published by Palgrave-MacMillan and of the “International Review of Public Policy.” He is a member of the editorial and scientific committees of several international journals (Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Policy and Society). ORCID: 0000-0001-7488-0571 Email: pzittoun@gmail.com

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