Looking in
Windows onto intimate London habitats and homemaking across cultures
in French London
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Chapter 2 is the first of three dedicated to Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, deconstructed into a triad of habitat, habituation and habits. In this chapter, the migrants’ material habitat is the focus, and food emerges as a key element. Transporting French victuals to London homes allows the migrants to resist habitus transformation and assert a distinctive French identity, linked to the superior quality and perceived authenticity of French produce. It shows how the commonality of their personal artefacts and attitudes belie individuated strategies of transnational belonging and instead serve to construct a sense of community identity, albeit unwittingly. Through its emphasis on the participants’ material lifeworlds, the chapter challenges the well-established notion of ‘transnationalism’, particularly its foregrounding of abstract nationhood, and argues in favour of a more pinpointed, localised construct that acknowledges the intimate subject–object dynamics at play. The chapter contends that it is this attempt to recreate a sense of proximity to the familial primary habitat that participants have left behind which informs their choice of localised, consumable materialities. The final habitat dimension examined is the role of audiovisual media and their operationalisation as a textural, diasporic homemaking mechanism. Drawing on Schafer’s idea of the ‘soundscape’ and Appadurai’s intersecting ‘mediascapes’, ‘technoscapes’ and ‘ethnoscapes’, the chapter posits that the sounds and images of France permeating participants’ homes bridge time–space borders, allowing re-engagement with the cultural here-and-now of the homeland and a reconnection with primary-habitat memories. Complicated and ambiguous processes of emplacement, identity formation and belonging are thus substantiated.

French London

A blended ethnography of a migrant city

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