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Life paths and relational work. A dispositional analysis of nursing and policing practices

Applicant Pichonnaz David
Number 174420
Funding scheme Advanced Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology University of Exeter
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.09.2018 - 28.02.2019
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All Disciplines (3)

Political science

Keywords (8)

Police; Métiers relationnels; Classes et trajectoires sociales; Parcours de vie; Genre; Soins infirmiers; Socialisation; Dispositions politiques

Lay Summary (French)

Cette recherche étudie les manières différenciées de pratiquer les métiers de policier/ère et d’infirmier/ère. Deux éléments de visions et pratiques du métier seront étudiés en particulier : le rapport à la coercition et l’autorité (et l’implication que cela a dans le travail), ainsi que les manières dont les professionnel-le-s catégorisent leurs « client-e-s ».
Lay summary

L’étude se fonde sur l’hypothèse de base selon laquelle les manières différenciées de penser et pratiquer ces métiers sont façonnées pour une large part par la socialisation antérieure à l’entrée dans le métier, en particulier la socialisation de classe (familiale) et de genre. Le projet, basé sur des entretiens biographiques approfondis, vise également à explorer l’impact de diverses autres expériences sur les visions et pratiques du métier (militantes, religieuses, associatives, sportives, scolaires…). Puisque les choix que les professionnels opèrent dans leur pratique ne se limitent souvent pas à des choix techniques, et que les professionnels disposent d’une certaine marge d’autonomie, ces choix sont souvent guidés par des valeurs et croyances politiques. L’étude de la socialisation antérieure est dont attentive à la constitution du rapport au politique. La démarche repose sur une analyse dispositionnelle, basée sur le travail de Pierre Bourdieu, tenant compte des apports et dépassements proposés par Bernard Lahire et Muriel Darmon.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 19.07.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Connecting Work To Workers’ Social Past: A Dispositional Analysis of Police Work
Pichonnaz David (2021), Connecting Work To Workers’ Social Past: A Dispositional Analysis of Police Work, in The British Journal of Criminology, 61(1), 123-142.
Politiques et pratiques policières
PichonnazDavid (2020), Politiques et pratiques policières, in Maeder Pascal, Bonvin Jean-Michel, Knöpfel Carlo, Tecklenburg Ueli, Hugentobler Valérie (ed.), Seismo, Geneva/Zurich, 407-409.
Valeurs, outils et finalités en tensions. Analyser les désaccords dans les métiers relationnels du service public
Pichonnaz David (2020), Valeurs, outils et finalités en tensions. Analyser les désaccords dans les métiers relationnels du service public, in Kuehni Morgane (ed.), Schwabe / Les cahiers de l’ÉÉSP, Fribourg/Lausanne, 97-115.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Congrès international de la Société suisse de travail social Talk given at a conference Conflits de valeurs dans le travail. Analyser les désaccords intraprofessionnels 12.09.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Pichonnaz David;

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Objectif Monde - L'hebdo: Harcèlement à la police, le grand malaise TV5 Monde International 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Transformer la police La Liberté + Le Nouvelliste + ArcInfo Western Switzerland 2020


The provision of security and healthcare are fundamental collective issues intensely regulated by the State. However, they remain object of constant political debate: Should fostering security and health rely mainly on preventive measures? To what extent should the specific needs and resources of patients, offenders and other member of the communities be taken into account by police officers and nurses? Should these professionals avoid discriminating certain categories of “clients” and how? What is the right balance between empathy and emotional distance? Should relational skills be allocated a greater importance than technical ones? Public policies give official answers to these questions and, together with professional associations, set rules to guide police officers and nurses’ practices. Nevertheless, because these professionals deal with human beings and complex problematics, there are considerable variations in the ways they answer these questions when accomplishing their tasks. In particular, contrasted profiles of workers result in contrasted ways of responding to the tensions opposing coercively imposed standardized solutions to “clients” and taking into account their singularities and autonomy, and more broadly various ways of treating the different categories of “clients”. Concentrating on professionals’ perspectives, the objectives of this project are twofold. Firstly, to provide a deeper understanding of the complexity of relational work and of the variable ways professionals respond to it. Secondly, to make a step further by explaining these variations in how work is perceived and performed, by looking at the experiences professionals have made and the contexts they have been involved in before they joined their occupation.Applying Lahire’s “dispositional analysis” and Darmon’s socialisation analysis model to the study of working practices, this project will investigate three major contexts which are assumed to have a substantial influence on police officers’ and nurses’ visions and practices of their work: social class and family socialisation, gender socialisation, and social mobility patterns. Attention will be paid in particular to the political dispositions (i.e. the worldviews) professionals have interiorized along their life paths, as they are assumed to deeply underlie professional practices and choices. These dispositions and skills acquired before joining the profession are considered as shaping how professionals react to constraints and rules of the organizations they work in. They can in particular lead them (consciously or not) to resist to “orthodox” way of performing work.This project draws on in-depth biographical interviews conducted with British police officers and Swiss nurses. The theoretical foundations and the methodological choices of this qualitative research will enable a fine understanding of socialisation by looking in details at individual life paths, avoiding the overdeterministic bias of classical social-class analysis.