Elsa Vivant

Professor of Urban Studies

March - April 2023

Profil de Elsa Vivant
  • Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Cities
  • Boston
“If you see an overdose, don’t run.”

I am a city planner and a sociologist, and I teach urban studies at the Paris School of Urban Planning. My early research on the relationship between art and urban design led to a critical analysis of the role of culture in urban dynamics and the reshaping of metropolitan territories. In parallel, I studied the representation of urban planning (i.e. action on space) in contemporary creation. In recent years, I have collaborated with artists on projects related to my research, and I am currently reflecting on aesthetics in the social sciences. How can we design forms that allow for discussion of them?


After a first collaboration with a theater company at Maison des Métallos, in Paris, on a project that brought together local residents and patients at a mental health facility, I redirected my research toward spatial issues in the care industry.


“If you see an overdose, don’t run. Call 911. You’re protected by law.”


When I arrived in Boston, in 2018, I was intrigued by that message, printed on official posters. Without knowing where it would lead, I began an investigation among parents whose children had died of an overdose, police officers, doctors, local councilors, activists in favor of Drug Consumption Rooms, and local residents.


Elsa Vivant is a professor of urban studies and the director of Latts (CNRS-ENPC-Université Gustave Eiffel). She was a guest researcher at the London School of Economics at King’s College, and at Berkeley and Harvard universities. She took part in the program of Experimentation in Art and Politics at Sciences-Po in Paris, and was a guest artist and researcher at guest artist and researcher at the Ateliers Médicis in Clichy-sous-Bois, near Paris. She has published over thirty articles in international academic journals. Her first social science novel, L’Impasse : scènes de l’urbanisme ordinaire, was published by Créaphis in 2021.

For a documentary film, Recovery Island, she will visit places where drug users receive care but are socially excluded, and she will meet the people who are working to put an end to the drug overdose epidemic.


In partnership with

latts logo
Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Sociétés (LATTS)

LATTS is a multidisciplinary research center in the humanities and social sciences, specializing in cities and territories, public action and work. Based on the observation that technical worlds are of particular and growing importance in spatial, societal, economic, and political transformations, it focuses on understanding how infrastructures and technical devices are shaped by the various social worlds in which they are inserted and, conversely, how they contribute to transforming them. Through numerous field surveys, the work carried out within the laboratory has a triple ambition: to practice a demanding interdisciplinarity, to affirm the principle of a solid empirical support for research, and to encourage debate and theoretical production. As a joint research center, the LATTS brings together researchers and  professors from the CNRS, the Ecole des Ponts ParisTech and the Gustave Eiffel University.


Learn more