Life in the empty diagonal: the experiences and impacts of newcomers in rural France
MetadataShow full item record
Two phenomena are occurring in parallel across France – the influx and subsequent resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers, and the gradual depopulation of rural areas. The intersection of these trends is found with the resettlement that is increasingly taking place in remote areas of the country that are encountering the challenges of rural shrinkage. This research aimed to assess what role these areas can play in providing a welcome space for newcomers despite the challenges associated with living in rural regions, as well as identifying the potential for livelihood improvement. Using a case study approach, this research took place in Aubusson and Felletin, two shrinking rural towns in France currently open to receiving newcomers in the context of increasing efforts to disperse refugees and asylum seekers across the country. Employing the concept of emplacement as an alternative lens to integration redirects attention away overarching distinctions between French locals and foreign newcomers and places the emphasis on facilitating local-level relations. The supposed divide between natives and newcomers is found to be more overlapping than initially anticipated. Ultimately, the study finds that a successful placement with mutual benefit for the community and new arrivals would be one in which there remains opportunities for work, functional essential services and facilities within a reasonable distance, and prospects of meaningful social interactions. Livelihood improvement in this context is feasible, and there are instances of highly successful initiatives that contribute to local revitalisation, but these are not guaranteed. Expecting newcomers to shoulder the burden for revitalisation and singlehandedly alter a town’s development trajectory would be both unfair and unrealistic.