Impressions from an STSM to Pessac (Bordeaux) in France

Ido Rosenblum of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev sent us these impressions from his STSM:

After it was delayed three times “thanks” to the pandemic, I had the opportunity to visit Sciences Po Bordeaux last month as a part of the ENTER COST STSM program. It was a fruitful month and an excellent opportunity to meet, talk, discuss and exchange ideas with local Ph.D. students and professors.

My official hosts, Dr. Sophie Duchesne and Prof. Gilles Bertrand, were great hosts for me and since my first day at the campus, let me feel that the SPB in general and the Emile Durkheim Centre are “home away from home” for me. I want to use the opportunity and mention Mrs. Lucile Martin from the International office that helped make my visit to Bordeaux much more comfortable and took care of any administrative and logistic challenges.

During the month, I had access to the Ph.D. laboratories, and I have used them daily. The Ph.D. students of Sciences Po became day by day to good friends and colleagues, and we found common ground on many aspects that create vibrant discussions every day on our research and life as Ph.D. candidates. The fantastic diversity of the research topics within the Ph.D. candidates here was an inspiration for me. It revealed me to issues that I have not thought of, while some of them helped me to rethink my both theoretical background and methodology: The importance of EU regions in identity building, policy, legislative and normative differences between EU states and its neighbors, the ISIS cultural war, urbanism inside and outside the EU, diverse immigration to the EU and more. I am proud to say that my colleagues found my research topic interesting as well, and it was at the center of some discussions that we had. We have discussed food and Identity (in nation-building and for immigrants), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the import of the conflict to the EU space, Middle-Class migration, and more. On the social aspect, to meet students from Myanmar, Haiti, Mozambique, Morocco among French students was fascinating. As political scientists, we were all interested in politics, sociology, history, geography, culture, etc., and the diversity brought to the table great topics, I have learned a lot.

Another focal point of my visit was the sessions with Dr. Sophie Duchesne, Professor Gilles Bertrand, and Professor Andy Smith; One of Dr. Duchesne’s research interests is Banal Nationalism. After I have presented my research, we have discussed the banal and non-banal aspects of cuisine and gastronomy. Dr. Duchesne helped me focus and understand the theory better, and I hope to apply it to my research. Besides that, Dr. Duchesne’s critical understanding of reality and her familiarity with the Jewish diaspora in France also made me rethink the essential relations between the Israeli immigrants and the European locals. Prof. Gilles Bertrand focuses on the Greek-Turkish conflict. His deep understanding of the Middle East and his expertise in Sociology of International Relations helped me to deepen my knowledge on power in IR, the way that the Middle East and its conflicts perceived in France and Europe, and the way that Middle Eastern migrants’ “brand” themselves in Europe and especially in France. The way that Dr. Duchesne and Prof. Bertrand see culture in general and gastronomy was also an eye-opening experience that raised some new ideas for my theoretical framework. Finally, Prof. Andy Smith’s expertise in Political economics and his fascinating writing on Scotch Whisky were much of a help to me. Professor Smith is also a European integration expert. Sharing some of his (and his colleagues) writing help me to discover different angles from the ones that I am familiar with.

Well, besides the academic aspect, I had a city to explore… Bordeaux is a great city, big enough to have great restaurants, bars, museums, markets, the city center with all the stores you are looking for, lovely old-fashionable district for more “hip” leisure time, beautiful river and river-bank to walk on. If you are there, don’t forget to spend a day close to the ocean, if you are a sea-food lover, this is the place for you! And if not, you will enjoy the beautiful sea and the soft sand. Last but not least, as a wine lover, I felt like a kid in a candy shop… great wines are all over – stores, bars, restaurants, markets, chateaus, and if you are coming by bike from the city to the campus, you will even enjoy riding between picturesque vineyards.

The month in Sciences Po and Bordeaux was a beautiful, thought-provoking, and refreshing experience; I am so glad that I have managed to do so, and I am thankful for your generous support that made it happen.