Centre Emile Durkheim
The Emile Durkheim Centre for Comparative Political Sciences and Sociology is a joint research unit (Unité Mixte de Recherche – UMR), established in January 2011 under the supervision of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is situated on the campuses of Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Bordeaux Segalen.
The centre occupies a unique position in the French scientific landscape, focusing on the development and systematization of the comparative method in political science and sociology. Despite many claims suggesting otherwise, this approach is far from widespread in the two disciplines. The title ‘comparison’ is often used in other fields of research, even in cases where the method employed is monographic in nature. The same term is sometimes used to compare and juxtapose case studies, with neither the conditions of their comparison being defined, nor generalizations being sought. The Emile Durkheim Centre possesses numerous assets to rectify this state of affairs. In taking on this challenge, its activities revolve around five fields of study:
(1) INEQUALITIES – Comparative Research on Experiences of Inequality;
(2) IDENTIFICATION – Comparative Research on Identification Processes;
(3) MARKETS – Comparative Research on the Political Organization of Markets;
(4) INSTITUTIONS – Comparative Research on Public Institutions and their personnel;
(5) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS – Comparative Research on International Negotiations and Trans-nationalization Dynamics.
Each field prioritizes the development of comparative studies and collective projects within the framework of national and international scientific controversies. The doctoral students at the centre actively contribute to its various research projects. Their integration is aided through the centre’s affiliation with a Master’s programme in political science and sociology entitled ‘Social Problems and Public Action’ (a joint programme between Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Bordeaux Segalen).
A perennial, inter-disciplinary seminar is also organized under the general heading ‘Comparative Political Sociology: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges’. Four to five annual sessions allow external scholars to present their experiences of comparative research and discuss their work with members of the centre. The seminar fulfills both an internal objective (encouraging ― particularly amongst doctoral students ― systematic recourse to the comparative method and consideration of the techniques involved) and an external one (ensuring the visibility of the centre in the field of comparative studies). The seminar is principally theoretical and methodological in nature. Its goal is not so much to present results but rather to encourage participants to examine the difficulties they have encountered in comparative research and discuss how these issues may be resolved. The emphasis on the comparative method also contributes to the internationalization of the research conducted: all members of the centre belong to research networks which stretch far beyond the borders of France; several visiting scholars are invited every year in order to conduct comparative research at the centre.
The Emile Durkheim Centre is composed of 85 doctoral students, 14 full-time researchers (10 CNRS researchers, 4 researchers at the National Foundation for Political Science), 32 lecturers, 14 administrative personnel (secretariat, management, publishing, documentation, communication, quantitative analyses) and 1 research fellow. “