Accepted Paper:

Between momentary happiness and lifelong fulfilment: emotional trajectories of British migrants to southwest France  


Michaela Benson (University of York)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork among British migrants in southwest France, this paper examines the promise of happiness that inspires migration and the subsequent search for fulfillment in the process of migration and settlement in the new country.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the emotional trajectories of migration shifting between momentary happiness and lasting fulfillment in narratives and experiences of British migrants in Lot, a rural department in southwest France. The life stories and histories of migration describe experiences of instant happiness during holidays in France. These happy moments seem to have produced visions of lasting happiness that have inspired emigration projects from the UK. The decision to emigrate was usually taken at a time when people experienced different forms of dissatisfaction with their life at home, in the UK, in contrast to the glimpse of joy and happiness during the. The quest for fulfillment would set in motion from the beginning of the migration journey. Yet, most migrants shared experiences of great sadness and unhappiness, many unforeseen difficulties and longing for family and friends and even old life back in the UK. Moments of happiness in the midst of lasting sadness would fuel the incessant quest for fulfillment and a vision of happiness that is yet to be achieved. At the same time, migrants would also experience doubts if they would ever achieve their quests and they would often share experiences of disconnection to their vision. I explore the conflicts in the narratives through which migrants seem to make sense of often contradictory emotional, moral, and relational experiences during migration.

Panel W109
Happiness: anthropological engagements