The British in Rural France

The British in Rural France: Lifestyle migration and the ongoing quest for a better way of life

MICHAELA CAROLINE BENSON
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt155j50t
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  • Book Info
    The British in Rural France
    Book Description:

    The British in Rural France is a study of how lifestyle choices intersect with migration, and how this relationship frames and shapes post-migration lives. It presents a conceptual framework for understanding post-migration lives that incorporates culturally-specific imaginings, lived experiences, individual life histories, and personal circumstances. Through an ethnographic lens incorporating in-depth interviews, participant observation, life and migration histories, this monograph reveals the complex process by which migrants negotiate and make meaningful their lives following migration. By promoting their own ideologies and lifestyle choices relative to those of others, British migrants in rural France reinforce their position as members of the British middle-class, but also take authorship of their lives in a way not possible before migration. This is evident in the pursuit of a better of life that initially motivated migration and continues to characterise post-migration lives. As the book argues this ongoing quest is both reflective of wider ideologies about living, particularly the desire for authentic living, and subtle processes of social distinction. In these respects The British in Rural France provides a unique empirical example of the relationship between the pursuit of authenticity and middle class identification practices. The book will be of interest to lifestyle migration and migration specialists, sociologists, social anthropologists, human geographers, scholars of tourism, as well as being accessible to individuals with a broader interest in this social phenomenon.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-462-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Series editorʹs foreword
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Alexander Thomas T. Smith

    At its best, ethnography has provided a valuable tool for apprehending a world in flux. A couple of years after the Second World War, Max Gluckman founded the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. In the years that followed, he and his colleagues built a programme of ethnographic research that drew eclectically on the work of leading anthropologists, economists and sociologists to explore issues of conflict, reconciliation and social justice ‘at home’ and abroad. Often placing emphasis on detailed analysis of case studies drawn from small-scale societies and organisations, the famous ‘Manchester School’ in social anthropology built...

  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-x)
    Michaela Benson
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Ask anyone on the streets of a British middle-class town or village why their compatriots move to rural France and the answer will be immediate: the beautiful landscape, the good food and wine, cheap property and a slower pace of life. These impressionistic and aestheticized accounts are mirrored in academic explanations of this decision to migrate; as Tombs and Tombs summarize, ‘the relative cheapness of France has for centuries permitted a genteel lifestyle, with a pleasant climate, sparsely inhabited countryside, and gastronomic pleasure’ (2007: 655). It seems as though the decision to migrate to rural France is a self-evident truth....

  7. Part 1 Imagination, migration and post-migration lives
    • 1 Explaining migration
      (pp. 27-44)

      This chapter introduces the migrants, broadly outlining their sociological characteristics, and providing some initial insights into their individualized migration stories. In this manner, I draw attention to the migrants’ accounts of their lives before migration, to demonstrate the diverse contexts that motivated relocation and to reveal their different circumstances (familial, economic, age) at the time of migration. What was particularly striking was the homogeneous class background of my respondents in the Lot, who originated exclusively from the British middle classes. In this respect, their emphasis on the diversity of the British population in the Lot can be understood as an...

    • 2 Negotiating locality
      (pp. 45-65)

      The imaginings of life in the Lot, understood as the quintessential rural idyll, that prompted the migrants’ choice of destination centred around the vision of a discrete rural community characterized by mechanical solidarity and social cohesion (Rapport 1993). My respondents believed that their entry into this idyllic social landscape – an imagined community consisting of the French inhabitants of the villages in which they would reside – would provide them with the antidote to their malaise with life in contemporary Britain (see also Tombs and Tombs 2004; Drake and Collard 2008; Benson 2010a). In this respect, the desire for local...

    • 3 A (persistent) state of uncertainty
      (pp. 66-82)

      This chapter presents a way of understanding and conceptualizing the persistence of uncertainty in my respondents’ post-migration lives. While Chapter 2 revealed the continual negotiations involved in the realization of locality and the resulting ambivalence that the migrants felt, this chapter demonstrates that life in the Lot is replete with contradictions: from the mismatch between the migrants’ expectations for their new lives and lived reality to the differences between their rhetoric about the lives they lead and their everyday practices. Such contradictions characterized their lives long after migration and cannot be ascribed purely to anxieties over settlement. Irrespective of the...

    • 4 Life in a postcard
      (pp. 83-100)

      The Lot is a department renowned for its beautiful landscape – awesome limestone cliffs with picturesque medieval villages perched at their peaks, verdant green valleys, and vineyards. Indeed, my respondents often cited the environment when they discussed the decision to migrate, perceiving the Lot to offer both beautiful scenery and the promise of traditional rural living (Buller and Hoggart 1994a; Thorbold 2008). This desire to live in a beautiful area reflected the yearnings of lifestyle migrants more generally, with the new landscape offering the antithesis of life before migration (Waldren 1996; King, Warnes and Williams 2000; O’Reilly 2000). While previous...

  8. Part 2 Distinction, identity and the ongoing search for a better way of life
    • 5 At home in the Lot
      (pp. 103-118)

      This chapter explores how my respondents made their houses in the Lot into homes. Through the examination of specific case studies I reveal the process of home-making, from planning, building and modification of the material form of houses to choices over how to furnish and decorate interiors. As these examples demonstrate, there was no standard format, and homes were constructed in a variety of ways. By drawing on the established literature that focuses on the material culture of the home (see for example Miller 1998, 2001; Cieraad 1999), I demonstrate that the migrants’ home consumption choices were an expression of...

    • 6 The unexceptional lives of others
      (pp. 119-135)

      This chapter presents my respondents’ stereotyped representations of ‘others’, a term used to designate tourists and lifestyle migrants living in other destinations. It questions the ends to which these representations were employed and what they reveal about their authors. In particular, it became clear that the discussions of others were heavily influenced by the migrants’ moralized framing of a better way of life, focusing on such issues as social integration, linguistic ability and the value of local knowledge. By drawing on the established anthropological literature on stereotypes and ‘othering’ (see for example McDonald 1993; Herzfeld 1997; Theodossopoulos 2003b), I argue...

    • 7 En route to authentic living
      (pp. 136-152)

      This chapter builds on the argument presented in Chapter 6 to highlight the relationship between post-migration lives, processes of social distinction and the quest for a better way of life. It recognizes that the search for a better way of life does not stop after migration but is an ongoing process, through which my respondents redefined their goals. Nevertheless, the ideology of a more authentic way of living remains at the core. The concept of authenticity thus serves as a lens through which to examine the migrants’ everyday lives following migration.

      Against this background, the chapter highlights the role that...

  9. Conclusion: distinction, ambivalence, authenticity
    (pp. 153-168)

    Through the pages of this book we have travelled with my respondents, British residents of the Lot, as they left their lives in Britain behind; gained insights into their imaginings of life in rural France; and examined the extent to which these were realized (or not) in their post-migration lives. My analysis has moved beyond the explanation of the phenomenon of migration to rural France as motivated by broader middle-class trends (see Buller and Hoggart 1994a; Barou and Prado 1995), to demonstrate how it is underwritten by a more pervasive cultural logic, while also revealing the individualized motivations and imaginings...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-179)
  11. Index
    (pp. 180-182)