French London

A blended ethnography of a migrant city

Based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, French London provides rare insights into the everyday lived experience of a diverse group of French citizens who have chosen to make London home. From sixth-form students to an octogenarian divorcee, hospitality to hospital staff, and second-generation onward migrants to returnees, the individual trajectories described are disparate but connected by a ‘common-unity’ of practice. Despite most not self-identifying with a ‘community’ identity, this heterogenous migrant group are shown to share many homemaking characteristics and to enact their belonging in common ways. Whether through the contents of their kitchens, their reasons for migrating to London or their evolving attitudes to education and healthcare, participants are seen to embody a distinct form of London-Frenchness. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of ‘symbolic violence’ and ‘habitus’, inventively deconstructed into its component parts of habitat, habituation and habits, the book reveals how structural forces in France and early encounters with ‘otherness’ underpin mobility, and how long-term settlement is performed as a pre-reflexive process. It deploys an original blended ethnographic lens to understand the intersection between the on-land and online in contemporary mobility, providing a rich description of migrants’ material and digital habitats. With ‘Brexit’ on the horizon and participants subsequently revisited in a post-referendum Epilogue, the monograph demonstrates the appeal of London prior to 2016 and the disruption to the migrants’ identity and belonging since. It offers an unprecedented window onto the intimate lifeworlds of an under-researched diaspora at a crucial point in Britain’s history.

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