Retirement Home? Ageing Migrant Workers in France and the Question of Return

Alistair Hunter

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

Retirement Home? peers into the hidden world of France’s migrant worker hostels, documenting in intimate ethnographic detail the lives of older North and West African men who unexpectedly continue to live past retirement age in sub-standard accommodation which is patently ill-adapted for senior citizens, far away from their wives and children in places of origin. This paradox is the point of departure for a book which transports readers from the banlieues of Paris to the banks of the Senegal River and the villages of the High Atlas, all the time in the company of these ageing migrant pioneers.

A policy initiative of the French state at the height of the Algerian war of independence (1954-62), the migrant worker hostels originally served a double purpose: a means of surveilling a suspect foreign population at a time of decolonisation and workers’ struggles, and a short-term housing solution for a supposedly temporary migrant labour force. Yet the hostels continue to exist today, now hosting a largely elderly population. During working life, the men retained significant connections to countries of origin, having not reunified their families in France but instead financially supporting their stay-at-home wives and children from a distance. Retirement is therefore the logical juncture at which to return definitively to loved ones in countries of origin. That they do not calls into question the assumptions of the ‘myth of return’ literature, which explains non-return on the basis of family location. Furthermore, older hostel residents also remain unmoved by the economic incentives of a return homewards, where their French state pensions would have far greater purchasing power. Unpacking these questions, this book sets out to contribute to broader debates on ‘home’ and what it means for immigrants to achieve inclusion in society.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer
Number of pages211
ISBN (Electronic)9783319649764
ISBN (Print)9783319649757
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2018

Publication series

NameIMISCOE Research Series
PublisherSpringer
ISSN (Print)2364-4087
ISSN (Electronic)2364-4095

Keywords

  • aging migrants
  • return and circulation migration
  • migrant worker hostels in France
  • social systems
  • older North and West African men

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