Between belonging and longing: Why do young rural-urban migrants leave their places of birth, what do they leave behind, and do they consider moving back?

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Abstract

This study is based on telephone interviews in 2012 with 25 arbitrarily chosen adolescents between 20-27 years who had recently migrated from the rural Danish municipality of Lemvig, supplemented with results from a 2011 survey (n=120). Within a theoretical framework of belonging (Cohen, 1982) combined with Bourdieu’s (1986) general theory of the economy of practices, the purpose is to shed light on three, interrelated questions: Why do young rural-urban migrants leave their places of birth, what do they leave behind, and do they consider moving back later in life? The new empirical contribution is to shed light on the latter, important question, which has been somewhat overlooked within rural studies. In line with previous studies, adolescents’ decision to move was often complex, although achieving legitimate cultural (educational) capital
in urban areas was crucial. However, most of them still felt a strong emotional attachment – belonging – to their local area, mainly to family, friends, local community and place. In what regards potential return migration, difficulties in getting a good job and thus securing good incomes and social recognition seemed to be the main obstacle for moving back. Hence, many seemed trapped between two ‘competing’ sets of emotions – security/warmth and personal pride/ambition – that is, between their belonging to a specific local field characterized by ‘survival’ networks (Corbett, 2013) and their longing for a non-specific, other place where they could achieve, and capitalize upon, highly state recognized forms of educational and symbolic capital targeted at the national ‘field of fields’ (cf. Hektner, 1995; Johnson et al., 2005; Bourdieu, 2014). At
the macro level, the rural-to-urban migration trend mirrors an unequal distribution of legitimate symbolic capital in space, i.e. the rural-urban power divide, reinforced by a negative discourse of rurality (Winther and
Svendsen, 2012).
Original languageEnglish
Article number02
JournalJournal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change
Volume3
Issue number1
Number of pages21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30. Jul 2018

Keywords

  • Internal migration
  • Belonging
  • Young adults
  • Urbanization
  • Social capital
  • Educational capital
  • Symbolic Capital
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Friendship groups
  • Herd behavior
  • Depopulation
  • Interview study
  • Lemvig Municipality
  • Rural Denmark

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