|“Sorry, I’m French”: Frenchness as Uneasy Resource in the Construction of Home, Identity and Belonging among French Students in London
|Huc-Hepher, S. and Lyczba, F.
This chapter presents early results from a longitudinal, qualitative study into Frenchness as a home-making resource for French undergraduate students in London. Focusing on interview and survey data collected during the students’ first year at a London university, we show how Frenchness is both reified and transformed as they embark on their journey towards belonging in London. We argue that publicly articulated notions of ‘hegemonic Frenchness’ are disrupted in the quest for cosmopolitan distinction that the London project embodies, and unsettled through linguistic practices and regionally emplaced sensory memories. In this pivotal first year of participants’ London project, ‘habitus hysteresis’ appears to drive constructions of belonging that remain fluid, dynamic, and often contradictory, leaving the students in the uneasy position of being simultaneously at odds with their French primary habitus and relying on it. Sounds and smells are found to play complex roles, at times reinforcing the cosmopolitan project, at others denying it through xenophobic structuring of the senses. It is these fundamental ambiguities and the praxial slipperiness of ‘French national identity’ that typify the French students’ uneasy construction of home in London.
|student migration; French migrants; Frenchness; identity transformation; unease; sensory belonging; home
|Negotiating Identities, Language and Migration in London’s Migrant Communities: Bridging Borders, Creating Spaces
|16 Jan 2024
|Place of publication
|AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council)
|Web address (URL)