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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.

A multimodal reading of archived London-French blogs
Saskia Huc-Hepher

Introduction This chapter brings the ethnosemiotic paradigm (Fiske, 1990 ) into its own, taking internet data as the analytical starting point. I return to the notion of habitus, deconstructed in previous chapters, but seek its representations in the London-French blogosphere. By examining five blogs preserved in different web archives between 2009 and 2014, I assess how they have evolved in social semiotic terms and what such developments tell us about the London-French migration experience over time. My analysis seeks to understand how identity is

in French London
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Saskia Huc-Hepher

to surface. The ‘habitus-turned-habitat’ prism (Bourdieu, [1972] 2000 ; Friedmann, 2005 : 328) effectively opened a view on to ‘transnational’ subjectivities and ambivalent belonging (Benson, 2011 ). However, the materiality of London-French homes foregrounded spatial specificity, with particular regions, cities, homes or lands emplacing participants in a translocal environment rather than a transnational one per se (Smith, 2001 ; White, 2011 ). Examining homemaking practices in various sites, from the intimate and mediated spaces of participants’ London

in French London
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Saskia Huc-Hepher

‘emigration’ further afield inhibits. In this interdisciplinary book, which draws on expertise from sociology, anthropology, geography and semiotics, my intention is to paint portraits that fully exploit the vibrant colours of participants’ narratives (originally in French) that stem from observational and linguistic sensibilities I have honed over a lifetime studying the French language, literature, culture and people. A primary objective is to give readers a deeper understanding of the motivations underpinning London-French mobilities, questioning preconceived ideas

in French London
French community rejection and projection
Saskia Huc-Hepher

class’ ( 2010a : 1,249). It is precisely these broader readings that my examination of participants’ habits will enable. I argue that by studying London-French habits, we gain insights into individuated and community belonging, diasporic emplacement, transnational cultural capital flows and premigration attachment and/or detachment. Given that ‘habit performance reflects the routine repetition of past acts … cued by stable features of the environment’ (Wood et al ., 2002 : 1,281), I ask how prolonged immersion in the London environment, or habitat, affects

in French London
Moving beyond agency
Saskia Huc-Hepher

Introduction Having considered the objectified habitats of my London-French participants, I now address the habituation component of the habitus triad. It is worth noting that all three elements have been explicitly alluded to in reference to Bourdieusian habitus, if never – to my knowledge – combined under a triadic analytical framework. Maton ( 2012 ) deconstructs habitus into a model with two etymologically related dimensions: habitat and habit, whereas Jenkins contends that the ‘power of the habitus derives from the thoughtlessness of habit and

in French London
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Windows onto intimate London habitats and homemaking across cultures
Saskia Huc-Hepher

London French in the Introduction, I return here to the material lifeworlds of my respondents and explore individualised processes of emplacement (Ryan and Mulholland, 2015 ; Ryan, 2018 ; Wessendorf and Phillimore, 2018 ) and homemaking (Walsh, 2006 ; Levin, 2016 ) in London. Subdividing Bourdieu’s original habitus concept into a triad composed of habitat, habituation and habits, the following three chapters, broadly speaking, examine participants’ material homes, attitudinal change and evolving practices respectively. In this chapter, I therefore delve into the

in French London
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Blended understandings of symbolic forces in London-French education on-land and on-line
Saskia Huc-Hepher

Introduction In this chapter and the next, I move from on-land research findings to an increasingly ‘blended’ ethnographic approach. In Chapter 4 , we began to see the effects of the internet on transnational practices, as such, examining London-French on-line representations is a logical progression, adding another layer to my holistic ethnographic approach. A fundamental component of my research involved curating the London French Special Collection (LFSC; Huc-Hepher, no date ), in the UK Web Archive (UKWA), hosted by the British Library. My blended

in French London
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‘Brexit blues’
Saskia Huc-Hepher

and carry on” … is an attempt to domesticate Brexit … and … is the right (i.e., the rational) thing to do in the longer run’ (Gawlewicz and Sotkasiira, 2019 : 5). For, as Fabienne’s Brexit blog trilogy testifies, defiance is more typical of the London-French reaction: I don’t want to ‘keep calm and carry on’. Why? Because I’m in the same boat as you. A boat that’s off-course. And, unlike you, I’m not at the helm (actually, nobody is … iceberg ahead … somebody, somebody? …). I have a right to be angry and I don’t give a damn if it makes you Brits feel

in French London
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The underlying push of symbolic violence in France
Saskia Huc-Hepher

endorsed by Bourdieu ( 1994 ) and O’Reilly ( 2012 ), alongside my own empirical findings, I draw on the educational experiences recounted in the autobiographical works of London-French migrants, Hamid Senni ( 2007 ) and Vladimir Cordier ( 2005 ). I argue that London-French migrants’ premigration internalisation of negative labels and expectations contributes to pessimistic outlooks, leaving them with a choice to concede failure or to challenge the habitus (Friedmann, 2005 ) through their act of migration. Whereas this decision is often hidden beneath reasoning that

in French London