🇬🇧 | Young Romanian anthropologist, Grig participates in the project Europe Convergence 2021, as a member of the journalism group. Last June, he discovered Dijon. During his wanderings, he met many personalities and discussed economy, art, ecology, intercultural relations… He gives us his view from his exchanges.

Fieldnotes from a Romanian anthropologist : 168h in Dijon

In the context of the third edition of « Europe Convergence” project created by Magna Vox Association, during June 2021 I had the opportunity to spend one week in Dijon together with young people from France, Germany, and Romania and to discover insights about the city and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. The following text highlights my initial motivations but also the output of this amazing summer experience.

Because of my interest in participatory development and international cooperation, during my master studies in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, I started a project called TRANZIT2030. Since my first immersion in France, in the „Nantes Creative Generation Forum 2019”, I also had the chance to discover a vibrant debate here, in France, regarding sustainability and community engagement. Since 2020 together with Centre Culturel Franco-Romain a Nantes we are developing a pilot edition centered on the already 30th years city partnership between Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and Nantes (France), to stimulate Franco-Romanian partnerships and civil society dialogue.    

In the context of my background, when our common partners from Institut Français de Cluj shared the open call for Europe Convergence 2021, with any hesitation I applied for it, with the motivation to discover more people and organizations with the same interests. Since every time you travel, you have the chance to learn things about yourself, one of the first things I found out this summer in Dijon was that the first twinning protocol signed by the city of Cluj-Napoca was with the city of Dijon, on November 17, 1965. The main objective of this historic twinning relationship between the two municipalities was to create exchanges between cultural, educational and economic organizations.

This summer in Dijon, I found a pedestrian-friendly city and I was surprised to discover that the high level of city walkability is based on a relatively recent investment. It feels like it’s been like this forever, but in fact, this was accomplished by a very well-made integration of new investments in the historical area of the city. One evening, near Place Saint Michel, I asked Mr. Laurent Vieille about the fountain statue of hydrology engineer Henry Bazin. I found out that Besançon, the second biggest city of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, had historically assumed the importance of inclusive public water management, a critical infrastructure that needed to be accessible for everybody. I remember that in Nantes, I was surprised to observe they were very proud about their public water system – and so was Dijon. It feels like French people are very preoccupied with water management, even nowadays. From Mr. Laurent Vieille, the representative of Haus Burgund Mainz, I also got insights about the historical and contemporary efforts for regional cooperation between the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region and the Mainz region from Germany.

© Musée d’Orsay, Fonds Debuisson, Jean-Marie Mir 2014

At Peniche Cancale, a cultural cooperative based on the Port du Canal – Dijon, I had the chance to meet a young historian interested in local history, traditional cooperatives and the social practices of millers. We ended up talking about micro-history, how hard it is to find historical traces of underprivileged women, about the famous paper called “The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller” by Carlo Ginzburg, but also about Franco-Romanian author Panait Istrati.

On 24 June 2021, I had the chance to meet online with Ms. Séphora Grisey and Ms. Alexandra Perrin, who are in charge of communication and relations with citizens at the Regional Council of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and I discovered even more about the natural, social and administrative context of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. I found out that Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region is surrounded by 7 mountains and it was created as part of the 2014 territorial-administrative reform by merging the regions of Burgundy and Franche-Comté. We’ve also talked about the second edition of the Festival of ecological solutions (September 6 to 12, 2021). Funded by local public funds, the festival represents an innovative regional call for climatic and environmental challenges that gathered more than 200 citizens’ initiatives this year.

Nonetheless, I had a very nice dialogue with David Aubertin, a student of IUT Info-Com-Arts at Université de Bourgogne from Dijon and we talked about the impact of the sanitary crisis amongst young people.

As also David highlights, I truly believe that ecological transition cannot be implemented without a systemic paradigm shift in economic practices, without making the economy work for environmental justice and citizens’ well-being. In practice, that means prioritizing climate-neutral investments, promoting the circular economy, responsible production, and consumption, but also stimulating European cohesion by combating energy poverty and reducing socioeconomic inequalities. That’s the reason why I think one of the best things we can all do in the next years is discovering more good practices and to cooperate in order to implement them at the local levels. For me, Europe Convergence represented a great context to continue this professional journey.

I already miss Dijon and France, but hopefully I’ll be back soon!

🗒️ Alexandru-Grig VULPE

Editor : Diana Cîmpean

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