DS0802 -

French rural areas in international migration dynamics – CAMIGRI

The French countryside in the dynamics of international migrations

The CAMIGRI research program aims to study the French countryside through the lens of international migrations and of the increasing diversification of forms of mobility.

Questioning changes in contemporary rural areas through the prism of international migrations

The main hypothesis is based on the fact that international migrants progressively became key players of demographic, economic and socio-cultural changes that characterize the recent evolution of the French countryside. Whether they take part directly as economic, political or social key players or whether they are the cause of local citizens' positions, new initiatives or mobilisations, international migrants reveal certain forms of socio-spatial changes in rural areas. By pursuing this goal, the CAMIGRI program allows to better decipher these dynamics and to integrate them into the field of rural and migration studies. Through the development of close collaborations with artists and civil society key players, it leads to the sharing and dissemination of all its productions in each field area studied by the research program.

The project deploys a mixed methodology applied to rural areas located in a large southwestern quarter of France. It is based on two common principles applied in the case studies’ areas: Saumurois and Loudunais, Périgord Vert, and Pyrénées Ariégeoises. First of all, it is a question of favouring an approach by areas, grouping together several rural municipalities. We consider that this scale of analysis is relevant to be able to articulate different kind of foreign presences in the same area. This posture makes it possible to put these presences within general rural trends (demographic, residential, agricultural ones, and so on) and to reveal their potential contributions to it. It also involves combining a multi-source and multi-date statistical approach (population census data since 1968; PERVAL notary database on land, real estate and commercial transactions; SIRENE company database) with qualitative approaches (continuous observations, biographical and semi-structured interviews, monitoring of organizations and mobilisations) and sensitive approaches (partnership with artists: photographer, comic strip authors) in order to make the foreign presence in rural areas visible and manifest.

At the end of the programme, several significant results can be identified. Despite the persistent low numbers of foreign and immigrant inhabitants in rural areas, the western French countryside is currently experiencing a twofold movement (1) of increasing settlement of international migrants ('spontaneous' one, see our case studies on labour or lifestyle migrations; or 'forced' one, see our case studies on people in exile) and, (2) above all, of diversification of the nationalities and socio-demographic profiles. (3) These new inhabitants in the French countryside take part in their own way and in different ways in the repopulation of areas in decline, as well as in the revitalisation of economic sectors facing difficulties (agriculture, tourism). They create new social relationships and, sometimes, are even at the core of the development of new entrepreneurial initiatives.

Camigri is developing a diversified strategy to spread these results towards the national and international scientific community and towards a wider audience.

Two of the project's flagship articles published in national scientific journals are currently being translated in English: (1) “Foreign presence in the French southwestern countryside. Contribution of recent initiatives to the social and economic diversification of rural areas«, Cybergeo; (2) “The Reception of Exiles in French Rural Areas: National Guidelines and Local Variations of a Dispersion Policy”, European Journal of International Migrations (REMI). The coordination of a special issue of the journal Etudes Rurales (to be published 2022) integrates the complementary work of colleagues delivering their expertise about other rural areas of Europe. This special issue’s title is : “Systems and initiatives for the settlement of migrants in the countryside. Case studies in Southern Europe (France, Spain, Italy). Finally, (4) the artistic productions «Anchoring fragments« (photography) and «Global village« (comics) complete the dissemination of the results to the general public in the program's field areas and beyond, by means of travelling exhibitions and conferences.

The CAMIGRI project seeks to renew studies about the French countryside through the lens of international migrations and of increasingly diverse forms of mobility. Our central hypothesis is that international migrants have become major players of demographic, economic and socio-economic changes that occurred recently in the French countryside. Indeed they are more and more involved in the process of demographic revival in several rural areas, which is mostly based on a positive migratory balance. But, at a local scale, their economic and social insertion can be a challenge for local authorities, and in the same time can be seen as an opportunity to socially and culturally diversify those areas, that are otherwise considered as "remote", withdrawn or excluded from international migration flows. The potential contribution of international migrants to the development of rural areas is receiving particular attention from the scientific community and from French and European policies. This interest can be explained by the role that migrants can play in the demographic revival of declining areas, in the economic development of activities in crisis, or in the recent redeployment of reception conditions for asylum seekers. In response to these issues, our research project aims to better grasp, in both quantitative and qualitative ways, the complexity of dynamics and of migratory flows that are happening in French rural areas.

The social visibility or statistic invisibility of migrants deeply depend on the observation systems and on the construction of categories, in which the "foreigner" stands close to or away from the rural societies. There are not only shortcomings in the statistical system, but also a persistent collective view of the "migrant" as an "immigrant" or a "foreigner" (within the meanings of the statistical definitions) ; it leads us to propose another way to analyse rural areas in terms of international circulation. The CAMIGRI project proposes to examine some French South-Western rural areas through the lens of the diversity of international migration forms, from the temporary movement to a permanent anchorage, from an isolated presence to a permanent establishment. But using existing knowledge is not enough to examine their impacts on rural areas. Those last will be studied in three major fields of the rural change. (1) Firstly, the analysis of the transformation of residential areas underlines new ways of living. (2) Secondly, migrants have high impacts on farming systems, which in turn can be of high impact on landscape, land changes as well as on food supply networks. (3) Thirdly, reception policies for asylum seekers are interesting because it questions reactions and integration capabilities of rural communities. The CAMIGRI project adopts a transversal reading of those processes by positioning itself at the crossroads of several research fields (rural and migration studies) and of various (residential, economic, political) aspects of rural life. Our project helps to raise new issues which call for scientific, methodological and political responses. Thus, it brings an original way to understand recent developments occurring in the countryside, as well as new migratory trends and capabilities of communities and policies to respond to those dynamics of change.

Project coordination

David Lessault (Migrations Internationales Espaces et Sociétés - Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


MIGRINTER-CNRS Migrations Internationales Espaces et Sociétés - Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique

Help of the ANR 204,552 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2016 - 36 Months

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